You can relieve your lower back pain with yoga poses and other exercises, including the knee-to-chest stretch and Cat-Cow.
Lower back pain can be debilitating and painful.
Staying physically active is perhaps the most effective and cost-efficient way to soothe or prevent it.
Here are 8 simple stretches to relieve lower back pain.
Changes in the lumbar, or lower back, structure due to musculoskeletal damage are considered the main cause. However, the origins of lower back pain can vary (3).
Your musculoskeletal system comprises muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues that provide form, support, and stability. They also enable movement.
Other muscles that play an important role in maintaining the normal curvature of your spinal column are the hamstrings (located at the back of your thighs) and hip flexors. Tightness in these muscles may cause lower back pain.
Minor lower back pain normally gets better on its own within a few days or weeks. Lower back pain is considered chronic when it persists for more than 3 months (4).
This article provides eight stretches for lower back pain, all of which you can do in the comfort of your home with minimal or no equipment.
Lower back pain is an incredibly common condition that can be relieved or prevented with regular exercise and stretching.
The knee-to-chest stretch can help lengthen your lower back, relieving tension and pain.
To perform the knee-to-chest stretch:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Using both hands, grab hold of your right lower leg and interlace your fingers, or clasp your wrists just under the knee.
- While keeping your left foot flat on the floor, gently pull your right knee to your chest until you feel a slight stretch in your lower back.
- Hold your right knee against your chest for 30–60 seconds, making sure to relax your legs, hips, and lower back.
- Release your right knee and return to the starting position.
- Repeat steps 2–4 with your left leg.
- Repeat 3 times for each leg.
To make this stretch more difficult, simultaneously bring your knees to your chest for 15–20 seconds. Do this 3 times, with each rep separated by 30 seconds of rest.
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 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:
- 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.
- Fully extend your arms out to the sides, with your palms facedown on the floor.
- 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.
- Return to the starting position and repeat step 3 on your left side, again holding for 15–20 seconds.
- Repeat 5–10 times on each side.
Perform the trunk rotation by keeping your knees together up toward your chest, gently rolling your knees to one side, and holding the position.
The Cat-Cow helps increase flexibility and ease tension in your lower back and core muscles.
To perform the Cat-Cow:
- Get onto your hands and knees with your knees hip-width apart. This is your starting position.
- 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.
- Hold for 5–10 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch in your lower back.
- Return to the starting position.
- Raise your head and let your pelvis fall forward, curving your back down toward the floor. This is the cow portion of the stretch.
- Hold for 5–10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
- Repeat the Cat-Cow 15–20 times.
You can also perform this move in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your knees. This modification is a perfect way to sneak in a few stretches at work.
Perform the Cat-Cow by arching your back for the cat pose, then letting your pelvis fall forward for the cow pose.
Tight hamstrings are thought to be a common contributor to lower back pain and injuries. This movement stretches the hamstring muscles to relieve tightness and release tension in your spine.
To perform the seated hamstring stretch:
- Sit on the floor with one leg straight out in front of you.
- Hook a standard bath towel around the bottom of your foot at the heel.
- Gently bend forward at your hips, bringing your belly down to your thighs.
- Keeping your back straight, grab the towel to help you bring your belly closer to your legs.
- Stretch until you feel mild tension in your lower back and the back of your leg.
- Hold for 10 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and repeat 3 times.
You can increase or decrease the tension of this stretch by grabbing the towel closer to or farther away from your feet.
As you become more flexible over time, you can increase how long you hold the stretch or reduce the time between reps.
Perform the seated hamstring stretch by sitting on the floor with one of your legs extended, hooking a towel around the bottom of your heel, and using the towel to gently pull yourself forward.
The pelvic tilt is a simple yet effective way to release tight back muscles and maintain their flexibility.
To perform the pelvic tilt:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Your hands can be near the base of your head (as if you’re about to perform a situp), or you can have your arms by your sides. The natural curvature of your spine will lift your lower back slightly off the floor.
- Gently arch your lower back and push your stomach out, stabilizing your core.
- Hold for 5–10 seconds, then relax.
- Push your pelvis up slightly toward the ceiling while tightening your abdominal and buttock muscles. In doing so, you should feel your lower back pressing into the floor. (Your pelvis should not leave the floor.)
- Hold for 5–10 seconds, then relax.
- Start with 10–15 reps daily, building up to 25–30 reps.
Perform the pelvic tilt by flattening your back against the floor, tightening your abdominal and buttock muscles, and pushing your pelvis toward the ceiling.
The flexion rotation helps stretch your lower back and buttocks.
To perform the flexion rotation:
- Lie on your right side with both legs straight.
- Bend your left leg, hooking your foot behind your right knee.
- Grasp your left knee with your right arm.
- Place your left hand behind your neck.
- Slowly rotate your upper body backward by touching your left shoulder blade to the floor. You should feel a mild stretch in your lower back.
- Repeat the rotation 10 times, holding each stretch for 1–3 seconds before slowly moving out of the rotation.
- Repeat steps 1–6 on your left side.
Perform the flexion rotation by bending one leg, hooking your foot around your other knee, and slowly rotating your upper body backward by touching your shoulder blade to the floor.
You’ll use a foam roller or firm cushion to perform the supported bridge. This move helps decompress your lower back through supported elevation.
To perform the supported bridge:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your hips and place a foam roller or firm cushion underneath them.
- Completely relax your body into the support of the floor and the foam roller or firm cushion.
- Hold for 30–60 seconds and repeat 3–5 times, resting for 30–60 seconds between sets.
Perform the supported bridge by positioning a foam roller or firm cushion underneath your hips and then relaxing your entire body.
Like the supported bridge, the belly flop also decompresses your lower back through supported elevation. This time, you’ll use a rolled towel or blanket.
To perform the belly flop:
- Roll up a towel or blanket lengthwise, and place it horizontally in front of you.
- Lie front-side down over the towel or blanket so that your hip bones are pressing into it.
- Completely relax your body. You can turn your head to either side.
- Stay in this position for 1–2 minutes and repeat 1–3 times, resting for 30–60 seconds between sets.
Perform the belly flop by placing a rolled-up towel or blanket under your hip bones, lying front-side down, and relaxing your entire body.
Lower back pain affects many people.
Regular physical activity and stretching are proven ways to help reduce lower back pain and prevent it from returning.
Stretches incorporating muscles like the abdominals and hamstrings can help ease the tightness in your lower back. The trunk rotation, pelvic tilt, and supported bridge are just a few moves you can try to soothe lingering pain.