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  • Writer's pictureJenny Henderson

Pain in the Back? My 6 top stretches to help with lower back pain.

Back pain is a real drag — it can suck the joy out of your days for weeks, months even years, and can keep you from feeling your best or performing at your highest level. But with the right stretches, you can build strength, alleviate back pain, and carry on with your daily doings.

Most people will experience low back pain at some point in their life and as we age, the spine will often experience degenerative changes which can increase the occurrence of back pain.  As for me, with a scoliotic and ageing spine, I get more than my fair share. In the old days, bed rest was prescribed, nowadays it is more often recommended that we keep exercising.

I’m a huge believer in keep active, for my mental health as much as anything else. Most back pain can actually be resolved by keeping your spine strong and flexible through regular stretching, so I stretch daily (often multiple times) to strengthen and lengthen the spine, loosen tight muscles and increase flexibility and mobility all while offering relief from back pain – What’s not to love!

These exercises work by stretching out muscles that are normally tight and strengthening muscles which tend to be weak.

  • All stretches should be slow and gradual.

  • Avoid over-stretching - stretch your muscles until you feel a slight stretch only, and hold each stretch for the recommended time.

Here are 6 of my favourites:

Cat Cow - Benefits: Stretches and mobilises the spine, strengthens wrists, shoulders and spine.

Kneeling on all 4's with knees under hips and wrists under shoulders, pull the tummy button towards the spine, rounding the back and hold Cat pose for 5-10 seconds before transitioning to Cow by lifting the tailbone and raising and opening the chest, extending the spine and feeling the back arch, repeat 5-6 times and then finish with puppy pose.

Puppy Pose - Benefits: Stretches and lengthens the spine and relieves tension in the upper back, shoulders and lower back.

From Cow move your butt back over the heels, keeping a gentle lumbar arch and your tailbone pointing upwards, press down through the hands and gently draw your butt further backwards.

Runner's Lunge - Benefits: Opens your hips and hip flexors (often associated with lower back pain!) increases stamina and strength in the arms, back, hips and legs.

From all fours, extend both legs out behind you into a high plank position. Bring the right foot forward to the outside of the hands, which should be shoulder-width apart, palms flat on the floor. Knee should be over the ankle. The back knee can rest on the floor if required. Look forward, keeping the chin parallel with the floor and extend the spine. Take a breath and while exhaling, soften the groin and let it sink toward the floor. Swap legs and repeat 5-6 times each side.

Bird Dog - Benefits: helps strengthen core muscles and stabilize the spine, particularly the lumbar region that supports most of the body. It also improves posture control, aligns the spine, reduces lower back pain, and strengthens the shoulder muscles. (a favourite!)

Starting on all fours, make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders, and knees directly under your hips. Your spine should be in a neutral position and your head in line with your spine. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out extend one leg and the opposite arm keeping inline with your spine. Hold for 5-10 seconds and as you breathe out lower both your leg and arm to the ground. Repeat 8-12 times alternating sides, ensuring your spine is in a neutral position at all times. Don't let your lower back sag down. There should be no pain with this exercise. If your back hurts at all then this exercise is not for you OR at least not yet.

Extended Child's Pose - Benefits: spine lengthening, providing a gentle stretch for the back and shoulders by relieving pressure on the spine, while gently stretching the whole of the upper body.

Starting on all fours, allow the knees to slide out to the sides, feet stay together. Travel the butt backwards to meet the heels. Hands, forearms and head slide forward and come to rest on the ground, rest here for as long as you wish.

Piriformis Stretch - Another muscle which can be tight when you have lower back pain is the piriformis, a muscle in your butt. This stretch is really effective in stretching this muscle, and very easy to do.

To carry out the exercise, sitting tall, legs crossed bring the right ankle over the left knee. Grip the thigh of your left leg and gently twist to the right, take a deep breath in, as you breathe out pull the knee in towards you. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat two times for each side. Smile.

It is also important to strengthen your lower tummy muscles because these muscles work in partnership with the lower back. This means if the lower tummy muscles are weak the lower back can tighten up, which can lead to lower back pain. This is a topic for another day. These exercises are extremely gentle, but of course, listen to your body and stop if you experience any pain, there are many reasons for having lower back pain, so it makes sense to get checked out by your GP or Physiotherapist.

Enjoy Stretching! Let me know which ones work for you.

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