Is your low back pain causing you to not be able to sleep, exercise or work well? If so, you are definitely not alone. At any given time there are more than 31 million Americans who suffer from low back pain. Not only is low back pain the most expensive and common cause of work-related disability in the U.S., when it comes to money spent on health care it is the third most costliest disorder. At some point in their lives, 80% of Americans are affected by it, with symptoms that range from dull aches to sharp, shooting debilitating pain.
Low Back Pain Causes
Although low back pain may be caused by conditions that are quite serious like fibromyalgia, endometriosis, spondylolisthesis and inflammatory arthritis, a majority of cases are mechanical, which means that the pain is coming from a disruption or injury in the muscles, soft tissues, discs or joints that surround the spine.
The following can cause mechanical low back pain:
- Poor lifestyle habits
- Piriformis syndrome
- Insufficient core strength
- Muscular imbalances
- Disc herniations
Low Back Pain Treatments
A lower back problem for many people is actually a problem with their lifestyle. Leading a sedentary lifestyle, which includes performing repetitive tasks, incorrect working posture and prolonged sitting may exacerbate or cause this pain. Spinal mobility can be reduced by these habits which can result in atrophy in muscles that are critical for spinal support, like hamstrings, glues and the core.
The unholy trinity of low back pain is lacking spinal mobility, stiff fascia and weak muscles. Fortunately, they are also things that are fairly easy to fix, and don’t require you to pop pain kills or have invasive surgery: mobility and stretching. Patients who have ongoing back pain might find that it takes weeks or even months of stretching and performing other exercise in order to mobilize the soft tissues and spine, but will discover that sustained and meaningful back pain relief will usually come after increasing motion.
Stretches for Easing Lower Back Pain
1. Child’s Pose
This classic yoga rest pose stretches your lower, middle and upper back, in addition to your glutes, which belong to your overall hip complex. To perform the Child’s Pose, kneel down on the floor, have your knees separate at around hip-width apart and the sides of your feet pressed in together. Sit back on your heels and then fold forward, with your torso resting on the top of your thighs. Lengthen the back of your neck to put your forehead onto the floor. Relax your arms on the sides of your body, with your palms facing up. Widen your upper back and release your shoulder towards the floor. Your stretch should be held for 30 seconds at least.
2. Pelvic Tilts
Your lower back muscles are stretched by pelvic tilts. They can be performed from numerous positions, including on a stability ball, on all fours, sitting or standing against a wall, and lying on the floor. To do pelvic tilts from the supine position, lie down on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Start out with a neutral spine – just your hand should fit in between the arch in your lower back and the floor. Your abdominal muscles should be engaged. Tilt your pelvis towards your torso so that your lumbar spine is flattened against the floor, while your gluteal muscles are kept relaxed. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
3. Hip Flexor Stretch
For those who do a lot of sitting, one common problem is tight hip flexors. This can cause back pain through putting an undue amount of pressure on your lower back. In order to stretch your hip flexor, kneel down on a folded towel. Put your right foot flat onto the floor right in front of you, with your knee bent at a 90 degree angle and your thigh parallel to the ground. For balance place your right hand onto your high and left hand on hip. Make sure that your abdominal muscles are engage and your weight is shifted forward on your right leg until you start feeling a stretch ending from the front part of your left hip all the way down to your thigh. Before alternating sides hold this for 30 seconds.
4. Piriformis Stretch
The piriformis muscle is what connects the lower part of the spine with the top of the thigh bone, and helps to externally rotate the hip joint. If you do some stretching it may help with alleviating hip and lower back pain. Lie down with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent while engaging your abdominal muscles. Your left ankle should be crossed over your right knees. Next, lift up your right roof from the floor until your calf is horizontal and your thigh is vertical. Behind your right thigh interlace your fingers and draw it closer or hold in place, depending on what stretch you are doing. Hold this for 30 seconds, before switching to the other side.
5. Cat-Cow Stretch
Doing this exercise is an excellent way of restoring movement within your pelvis and low back after you have suffered a spasm. Get down on your knees and hands. Sag your belly in the direction of the ground as you let you pelvis rock forward. Then hold the position for 10-30 seconds. Engage your stomach muscles and buttocks as you are arching your back the way an angry cat would. Maintain this position for 10-30 seconds.
6. Seated Posterior Stretch
This stretch allow you to sit in a chair while stretching your low back. Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor and your legs spread out wide. Put one hand on the other, and then reach your arms slowly towards the ground. While you are doing this, let your head drop to your chest. after you start feeling a stretch within back, this position should be held for 10-30 seconds before you relax. Your hands can also be moved slightly to the left while you are stretching the right side of your low back or on the right for stretching the left part.
7. Knee to Chest Stretch
This is a great low back stretch you can perform in the morning before getting out of bed. Lie on your back with your feet together and knees bent. With both hands grab your knees and move them towards your chest until you start feeling a pull sensation in your low back. Your knees should be kept in this position for 10-30 seconds before you relax.
8. Seated Rotation Stretch
The arms on a chair are used in this stretch and the focus is on improving lumbar rotation. Start out by sitting up straight in your chair that has arms with your feet on the floor. Turn to the left slowly and then pull on the chair arm to stretch even further. While doing this be sure you are maintaining an erect position. Hold the position for 10-30 second then repeat on the right side.
General Stretching Tips For Relieving Back Pain
When beginning a stretching regimen as part of your overall back exercise program, keep the following tips in mind:
- Wear non-binding, comfortable clothes
- Stretching should always be pain free; never force your body into positions that are difficult
- Slowly move into a stretch and avoid doing any bouncing, that can tear muscle
- Always do your stretching on a flat, clean surface that is large enough so that you can move freely
- Your stretches should be held for 20-30 seconds or long enough to allow your joints or muscles to become loose
- Repeat the stretch, usually 5 to 10 times
Practically anyone can benefit from stretching their soft tissues – the tendons, ligaments and muscles – in the buttock, legs and back around the spine. If you have neck pain or low back pain already, you should check with a physical therapist or doctor to discuss whether these lower back, shoulder and neck pain exercises should be performed.