8 Stretches for People with Chronic Back Pain
Written by Sean Pushor
Doing the dishes? Mowing the lawn? Vacuuming?
All good ways to flare up your back again.
Back pain can be irritating and debilitating. It’s important to discover what is causing the back pain and to stop doing that. Sounds simple, right?!
The last time you had a flare up did you bend forward to do something simple? Picking up a pen from the floor? Did you do household chores, dishes, laundry, vacuuming? Or did you lift something unusual and twist with uneven footing?
These are all things that can bring on or exacerbate your back pain. Today we’re going to discuss stretching to relieve some of it, but keep in mind, best practice is a three prong approach: Core strength to protect from it; Avoid or modify activities that bring it on; and Stretch to help the body work well.
As with all stretching exercises, we want to be gentle and not cause pain. You get more out of it by relaxing into the stretch than pushing further. So if any of the stretches outlined here today are more than uncomfortable, please modify or speak to a professional on the appropriate stretches for you.
Here are some stretches that might help put the jelly back in the doughnut. So easy you can even do them in jeans!
Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds, repeat once or twice if it feels like it’s useful.
Let’s start with Low Cobra. Lay on your stomach and lift up onto the elbows, pressing the shoulders back and lifting the chest. You should feel gentle pressure in the lower back. Relax your body from the hips down. Dog is optional.
If your back pain is mostly on one side rather than evenly across the middle, bias toward that side. For example, if your left side lower back/leg/sciatica is bothering more than right, keep both hips flat on the floor and skew the left hip forward slightly and the left shoulder back slightly. What you’re doing is making the spine curve to the left. You should feel more pressure on the left lower back at this point.
A second iteration is High Cobra. This is more intense of course and may or may not be for you. Same idea as the last, but on the hands instead of the elbows.
Next let’s go into Child’s Pose. Come up from Cobra onto hands and knees, knees apart, toes together. Sit back on your heels as far as is comfortable and put elbows on the ground and head down. This is going to be a stretch for the ankles, knees, hips and last but not least, lower back!
Now flip over onto your back for Upside Down Child’s Pose. This might work better for you if your knees didn’t like that last one. Pull both knees toward the chest and hold them there with both hands. Rock the knees together in small circles. At some point reverse directions. This is a fairly easy lower back stretch and the pull feels really nice!
Figure 4 Glute stretch is another nice one from the spine. While on your back, bend your knees and put your feet on the floor. Put the right ankle on the left knee, grab hold of the left leg and pull toward your chest. Try to relax your head and shoulders down to the ground. This should be stretching in the right hip and leg.
Now for something easier. Maybe. Have a seat in a kitchen chair, with another one in front of you. Put your right foot on the chair in front of you with the knee almost straight. With the chest up, try to lean forward a little until you feel the stretch in the hamstring. (Down the back of the leg). Repeat on the other side. Maybe repeat this one twice, hamstrings need a lot of attention.
While we’re sitting in the chair, put both feet on the floor, wide apart. Lean forward and reach your hands toward the ground. Breath and enjoy. You’re welcome.
Ok, last one. This is Standing Cobra. Sometimes you’re in nice clothes or you just don’t want to get on the floor. That’s why they make counter tops! And tables, and walls…
Hands on the counter, step back one foot, push the hips forward and lift the chest toward the ceiling.
I hope you enjoy these. Remember, we don’t need to cause more pain with stretching; we need to relieve some!
As always with stretches, we want to feel uncomfortable, not pain! Adjust as needed.
Focus on breathing long and slow through the nose. Try to relax and enjoy the sensation.
Hold each stretch 15-30 seconds.