Lower back pain can be a debilitating and painful condition.

Fortunately, staying physically active may be the most effective and cost-efficient way to soothe or prevent it.

Here are 8 simple stretches to relieve lower back pain.

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Lower back pain affects up to 80% of all people at one time or another (1, 2, 3).

Although its origin varies, changes in the lumbar, or lower back, structure due to musculoskeletal damage are considered to be the main cause (4).

Your musculoskeletal system is made up of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues that provide form, support, stability, and movement to your body.

Other muscles that play an important role in maintaining the normal curvature of your spinal column are reported to be associated with lower back pain. These include the hip flexor and hamstring muscles (5).

Minor lower back pain normally gets better on its own within a few days or weeks. It can be considered chronic when it persists for more than three months (6).

In either case, staying physically active and regularly stretching can help reduce lower back pain or prevent it from returning (7, 8, 9, 10).

The remainder of this article provides eight stretches for lower back pain, all of which you can do in the comfort of your own home with minimal or no equipment.

Summary Lower back pain is
an incredibly common condition that can be relieved or prevented with regular
exercise and stretching.

via Gfycat

The knee-to-chest stretch can help lengthen your lower back, relieving tension and pain.

To perform the knee-to-chest stretch:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent
    and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Using both hands, grab hold of your
    right lower leg and interlace your fingers, or clasp your wrists just under the
    knee.
  3. While keeping your left foot flat on
    the floor, gently pull your right knee up to your chest until you feel a slight
    stretch in your lower back.
  4. Hold your right knee against your
    chest for 30–60 seconds, making sure to relax your legs, hips, and lower back.
  5. Release your right knee and return to
    the starting position.
  6. Repeat steps 2–4 with your left leg.
  7. Repeat three times for each
    leg.

To make this stretch more difficult, simultaneously bring both of your knees to your chest for 15–20 seconds. Do this 3 times, separated by 30 seconds of rest.

Summary Perform the
knee-to-chest stretch by lying on your back and pulling and then holding one or
both knees to your chest.

The trunk rotation stretch can help relieve tension in your lower back. It also works your core muscles, including your abdominals, back muscles, and the muscles around your pelvis.

To perform the trunk rotation stretch:

  1. Lie on your back and bring your knees
    up toward your chest so your body is positioned as if you’re sitting in a
    chair.
  2. Fully extend your arms out to the sides,
    with your palms face-down on the floor.
  3. Keeping your knees together and hands
    on the floor, gently roll both bent knees over to your right side and hold for
    15–20 seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position and
    repeat step 3 on your left side, again holding for 15–20 seconds.
  5. Repeat 5–10 times on each side.

Summary Perform the trunk
rotation stretch by keeping your knees together up toward your chest, gently
rolling your knees to each side, and holding the position.

The cat-cow stretch is a useful exercise to help increase flexibility and ease tension in your lower back and core muscles.

To perform the cat-cow stretch:

  1. Get onto your hands and knees with
    your knees hip-width apart. This is the starting position.
  2. Arch your back by pulling your belly
    button up toward your spine, letting your head drop forward. This is the cat
    portion of the stretch.
  3. Hold for 5–10 seconds. You should
    feel a gentle stretch in your lower back.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Raise your head up and let your
    pelvis fall forward, curving your back down toward the floor. This is the cow
    portion of the stretch.
  6. Hold for 5–10 seconds, then return to
    the starting position.
  7. Repeat the cat-cow stretch 15–20
    times.

You can also perform this exercise in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your knees, making it perfect for sneaking in a few stretches at work.

Summary Perform the cat-cow
stretch by arching your back for the cat pose, then letting your pelvis fall
forward for the cow pose.

The pelvic tilt exercise is a simple yet effective way to release tight back muscles and maintain their flexibility.

To perform the pelvic tilt:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent,
    feet flat, and arms by your sides. The natural curvature of your spine will
    lift your lower back slightly off the floor.
  2. Gently arch your lower back and push
    your stomach out, stabilizing your core.
  3. Hold for 5–10 seconds, then relax.
  4. Push your pelvis slightly up toward
    the ceiling (your pelvis should not leave the floor) while tightening your
    abdominal and buttock muscles. In doing so, you should feel your lower back
    pressing into the floor.
  5. Hold for 5–10 seconds, then
    relax.
  6. Start with 10–15 repetitions daily,
    building up to 25–30.

Summary Flatten your back
against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and tilting your pelvis
toward the ceiling.

Tight hamstrings — the muscles located at the back of your thighs — are thought to be a common contributor to lower back pain and injuries (11, 12, 13, 14).

The seat forward bend stretches the hamstring muscles to relieve tightness and release tension in your spine.

To perform the seat forward bend:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs
    straight out in front of you.
  2. Hook a standard bath towel around the
    bottoms of your feet at the heels.
  3. Gently bend forward at your hips,
    bringing your belly down to your thighs.
  4. Keeping your back straight, grab the
    towel to help you bring your belly closer to your legs.
  5. Stretch until you feel mild tension
    in the back of your legs and lower back.
  6. Hold for 30 seconds, rest for 30
    seconds, and repeat 3 times.

You can increase or decrease the tension of this stretch by grabbing the towel closer or farther from your feet.

As you become more flexible over time, you can increase how long you hold the stretch, or reduce the time between stretches.

Summary While seated on the
floor with your legs extended, hook a towel around the bottom of your heels and
use it to pull yourself forward and stretch your hamstring and lower back
muscles.

The flexion rotation exercise helps stretch your lower back and buttocks.

To perform the flexion rotation exercise:

  1. Lie on your right side with both legs
    straight.
  2. Bend your left leg, hooking your foot
    behind your right knee.
  3. Grasp your left knee with your right
    arm.
  4. Place your left hand behind your
    neck.
  5. Slowly rotate your upper body
    backwards by touching your left shoulder blade to the floor. You should feel a
    mild stretch in your lower back.
  6. Repeat the rotation stretch 10 times,
    holding each stretch for 1–3 seconds before slowly moving out of the rotation.
  7. Repeat steps 1–6 on your left side.

Summary With your leg bent
and foot hooked around your other knee, slowly rotate your upper body backwards
by touching your shoulder blade to the floor until you feel a mild stretch in
your lower back.

Use a foam roller or firm cushion to perform the supported bridge. It helps decompress your lower back through supported elevation.

To perform the supported bridge:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent
    and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your hips and place a foam
    roller or firm cushion underneath them.
  3. Completely relax your body into the
    support of the floor and the foam roller or firm cushion.
  4. Hold for 30–60 seconds and repeat 3–5
    times, resting 30–60 seconds between sets.

You can increase the stretch in your lower back by extending one or both legs from their bent position.

Summary After positioning a
foam roller or firm pillow underneath your hips, relax your entire body.

Similarly to the supported bridge exercise, the belly flop exercise uses a rolled towel to decompress your lower back through supported elevation.

To perform the belly flop:

  1. Roll up a towel or blanket lengthwise
    and place it horizontally in front of you.
  2. Lie front-side down over the towel or
    blanket so that your hip bones are pressing into it.
  3. Completely relax your body. You can
    turn your head to either side.
  4. Stay in this position for 1–2 minutes
    and repeat 1–3 times, resting 30–60 seconds between sets.

Summary Lie front-side down
on a rolled-up towel or blanket that’s positioned under your hip bones and
relax your entire body.

Lower back pain is a painful condition that affects many people.

Regular physical activity and stretching are proven ways to help reduce lower back pain and prevent it from returning.

The trunk rotation, pelvic tilt, and supported bridge are just a few exercises that will help soothe lingering lower back pain.

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