Even the most active among us can spend a lot of time sitting: in the car, at work, during dinner, watching TV — you name it. All that sitting can lead to lower back pain. Fortunately, gentle stretches can counteract the effects of sitting to offer some temporary relief to lower back pain. Stretching elongates muscles, helps relieve stiffness and improves range of motion. Give these a try.
Before you begin, talk to your doctor before stretching if you've had hip or back surgery. If your doctor gives you the green light, make sure your muscles are warmed up from a low-impact exercise such as walking. While stretching, breathe normally, and don't push to the point of pain.
- Lower back twist: Lie with your feet on the floor, knees bent and arms straight out from your sides. With your knees together, lower them to one side of your body, keeping your shoulders on the ground. Hold for up to 30 seconds and bring your knees back to center. Alternate sides for three to five sets.
- Chair stretch: Sit securely at the front of a sturdy chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend forward, keeping your back and neck straight. Reach your hands toward your shins, stopping when you feel the stretch. Touch your heels if you can. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then slowly sit up. Repeat three to five times.
- Kneeling extension: Get on your hands and knees with your shoulders over your hands. Rock forward and round your shoulders as your lower back drops toward the floor in a cat stretch. Hold for five seconds. Then rock backward and sit on your heels, stretching your arms in front of you with palms flat on the floor.
- Knee to chest stretch: Lie on your back, lift one leg, and wrap your hands around your knee. Pull it gently toward your chest. With your abs pulled in and your spine pressing the floor, hold for five seconds. Release and repeat with the other leg. Do 10 repetitions.
You can do these stretches almost anytime, anywhere, in just a few minutes. Practice gentle stretching every day to help keep your back strong and pain-free.