Chronic back pain is one of the most common health problems for people in the United States. Almost 65 million people surveyed reported that they’d had a recent episode of back pain. Eight percent of those people reported experiencing chronic back pain.
Back pain is also the number one reason why Americans miss a day of work, and it’s one of the leading reasons Americans are on disability.
Managing chronic back pain is tough, but there are several things you can do at home to feel better. Making stretches for back pain part of your daily routine is one easy thing you can do to help your back feel better.
Try doing these stretches each morning and before you go to bed to relieve discomfort and protect against further damage.
Cat and Cow Stretches
These basic, dynamic stretches are the ideal way to get your back moving. These two stretches move your back in opposite ways, giving your back both flexion and extension. Linking cat and cow poses together into a simple flow warms up your back muscles so you can get a better stretch during the rest of your stretches.
For cow pose, start on your hands and knees with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. On an inhale, drop your belly toward the floor while reaching your chest up. This will create a “U” shape in your spine.
Hold this pose for a second or so, then on your exhale transition to cat pose by rounding your spine upward, creating a curve in your back. Think of the shape a cat’s body makes when it’s scared. Hold for a second or so, then on your inhale, return to cow pose.
Continue this flow for ten to fifteen rounds of breath.
Wide-Legged Child’s Pose
Wide-legged child’s pose is a wonderful way to gently lengthen the muscles in the back. It’s a gentler stretch than a forward fold, but it gives the same stretch along your spine. Wide-legged child’s pose also stretches the hips, which helps take the pressure off your back.
When you’ve completed your rounds of cat and cow poses, return to hands and knees with a flat back. Bring your feet together behind you and spread your knees apart. Lean forward into the space between your knees and rest your forehead and/or chest on the floor. Your bottom should be touching your heels.
To get a stretch through your shoulders, extend your arms in front of you, pushing the armpits toward the ground. To skip the should stretch and focus solely on your back, let the arms rest by your sides.
Hold this stretch for 15-30 breaths.
Side Stretch in Child’s Pose
You can get an extra stretch through the arms, the ribcage, the obliques, and the core by doing a side stretch while you’re down in Child’s Pose.
With your arms extended out in front of you, slowly reach to the right with both hands. This will create a slight C curve on your left side. Try to keep your bottom on your heels instead of lifting one side as you move into the stretch. Hold this stretch for 15-30 breaths.
Once you’re done on the right side, slowly move your arms back to the center. Then, slowly reach both hands to the left. This will create a C curve on your left side. Hold this stretch for 15-30 breaths.
When you’re finished on the left side, move your arms in front of you again. Then slowly push up to hands and knees to come out of Child’s pose.
Figure Four Stretch
Many people have issues with their backs, especially their low backs, because they have very tight muscles through their hips. So, stretching out the hips and the back at the same time is a great way to get some relief from lower back pain.
A figure four stretch will lengthen and loosen the muscles in the lower back, the outer hip, the hip flexor, and the glutes.
Start by laying on your back. Keeping your feet on the ground, bring both knees up, creating a V with each of your knees. Then, raise your right leg and place the ankle on the knee of the left leg, letting your hip fall open. It will look like you’re making the number “4” with your legs.
For some people, this is enough of a stretch. If you don’t feel much here, then lift the left foot off the ground and pull your knee toward you. This creates a bigger stretch.
Hold this stretch for 15-30 breaths.
When you’re done with the right side, plant your right foot on the ground. Raise your left foot and place the ankle on the knee. Repeat the stretch on this side, holding for 15-30 breaths.
Reclined Spinal Twist
One of the main reasons for back pain is that the muscles in our backs are tight from being held in the same position for extended periods of time. When you do a spinal twist, it changes which back muscles are activated, allowing others to get a rest. It also stretches the muscles of the middle back, the hips, and the glutes.
Start by lying on your back. Bend your knees and hug them into your chest. Roll side to side on your low back to give yourself a little massage.
Keeping both shoulders on the floor, let your knees fall to the right. Extend your left arm out like a T in the other direction. Hold this stretch for 15-30 breaths.
When you’re done on the right side, slowly pull your knees back to your chest. Roll side to side again, then let your knees fall to the left. Your right arm will come out to a T. Hold this stretch for 15-30 breaths.
When you’re done, bring your knees into your chest and roll side to side.
Daily Stretches for Back Pain
Doing these simple stretches for back pain each morning and before bed will help stretch and loosen the muscles of your back. This will help reduce back pain by keeping your back muscles from getting too tight.
For more information about stretching for chronic pain, check out this blog post about building a stretching routine to address your pain problems.