From slouching at your desk to overdoing it at the gym, many everyday activities can lead to back pain. Regular stretching helps protect your back by increasing flexibility and decreasing the risk of injury. Done after strengthening exercise, it also helps prevent muscle soreness.

Talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new back exercise program, especially if you have a history of spinal problems or back injury. Then follow these general guidelines:

  • Stretching cold muscles can lead to injury. So, warm-up with 5 to 10 minutes of light activity such as, walk or pedal a stationary bike at a comfortable pace.
  • Stretch slowly, avoiding bouncy or jerky movements.
  • Go only to the point where you feel mild tension. It shouldn’t hurt.
  • Relax into the stretch and hold for at least 30 seconds.

Here are three easy stretches that help keep your back limber and healthy.

  1. Lie on your back on the floor with your legs extended.
  2. Lift and bend your right leg, bringing the knee toward your chest.
  3. Grasp your knee or shin with your right hand, and pull your leg as far as it will comfortably go.
  4. Remain in the knee-to-chest position while tightening your abdominal muscles and pressing your spine into the floor. Hold for 5 seconds.
  5. Return slowly to your starting position.
  6. Do the same with your left leg.
  7. Do the same with both legs at once.
  8. Repeat the sequence five times.

  1. Begin on your hands and knees on the floor. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders with your arms straight.
  2. Rock forward, putting your weight onto your arms. Round your shoulders, and let your seat drop a little. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Rock backward, sitting your buttocks as close to your heels as possible. Keep your arms extended straight ahead. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Return slowly to your starting position.
  5. Repeat five times.

  1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Put the palms of your hands on your lower back. Take a few slow, deep breaths to relax.
  3. Bend your upper body backward, keeping your knees straight. Support your back with your hands. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Return slowly to your starting position.
  5. Repeat five times.
The bottom line

Stretching may help to relieve and prevent lower back pain by improving muscle endurance.