7 Simple & Rejuvenating Stretches for Back Pain

Medically reviewed by TJ Snediker, DPT, TPI
2020-06-11

Is your back bothering you? Stretching might be the answer. 

In general, stretching is used to enhance athletic performance, decrease muscle soreness, and prevent injury.  

Stretching can reduce your back pain in a few ways:

  1. It improves your flexibility and range of motion. This allows you to move more freely and comfortably throughout the day. 

  2. Stretching can help with poor posture. Poor posture puts unnecessary pressure on your low back, which may lead to pain. 

  3. Overall, stretching can relax your mind and reduce stress. This can decrease overall tension you might be experiencing in your body. 

There are specific movements you can try in the comfort of your own home to lessen back pain. Try these easy stretches today and you may experience less back pain today (for free!)

7 simple and rejuvenating stretches for back pain:

  • The cat-cow pose

  • Side-lying rotations

  • Quadruped rotations

  • Child's pose

  • Piriformis stretch

  • Overhead arm reach

  • Single knee to chest

See the modifications for each stretch if you have any trouble performing them. 


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The Cat-Cow Pose

Cat-cow is a gentle yoga pose that is great before any exercise sequence. It stretches your back, neck, and surrounding muscles. 

Try it:

  1. Get on all fours keeping your wrists under your shoulders and knees right under your hips.

  2. Distribute your body weight evenly by spreading out your fingers. 

  3. Begin by coming into cow:  Inhale and drop your belly to the floor. Lift both your chin and chest, and gaze up towards the ceiling.   

  4. Then, move into cat: exhale while arching your back like a cat. Tuck your pelvis and draw your belly into your spine while letting your head hang loose.

Go through five to seven rounds of cat-cow, breathing as you move between the poses. 

Modifications:

  1. If there is any discomfort in the knee, you can place a blanket underneath them to provide some extra cushioning.

  2. If there is pain in your wrists, you can perform cat-cow on your forearms.

 

Side-Lying Rotations

The side-lying rotation is a thoracic spine stretch. The thoracic spine is the largest region of the spine. Evidence suggests thoracic spine stretches have a positive effect on those with chronic low back pain. 

Try it:

  1. First, lie on your right side with a pillow between your knees.

  2. Keep your left knee bent and right knee as straight as possible. Keep your hands in front of you with your lumbar spine and hips as stable as possible.

  3. Rotate your spine until your outer arm, and upper back become parallel to the floor. Tighten your abs to avoid rotating your spine.

Perform 10 rotations on each side.

Modifications:If this causes discomfort you can do a standing thoracic rotation instead. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, bend from your hips 30 degrees, as if you were going to putt a golf ball. Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart and do the same twisting stretch in a standing position. You can hold a dowel or golf club across your shoulders if it helps to maintain alignment. 

Quadruped Rotations

Quadruped rotations are another excellent option for improving thoracic mobility. 

Try it:

  1. Start by getting on your knees and hands. Sit back on your buttocks while keeping your knees and feet together to lock out your pelvis.

  2. Take one hand and place it behind your neck. Rotate inwards towards your belly, keeping your abs engaged.

  3. Return to starting position.

  4. Then, place the same hand and place it on your low back, with your palm facing away from your back.

  5. Lead with the corresponding elbow and rotate your shoulder towards the ceiling, taking your gaze with you. 

Perform ten reps on each side.

Child's Pose

The child's pose stretch targets your shoulders, as well as your latissimus dorsi muscle. 

Try it:

  1. On your hands and knees, sit back, so your glutes are resting on your heels. 

  2. Reach your hands forward to lengthen your spine. You should feel a stretch in your middle back.

  3. Reaching both of your hands to either side allows for a stretch on the opposite side of your spine. 

Hold for 10-30 seconds and perform two to three repetitions.

Piriformis Chair Stretch

The piriformis muscle is located in your hip-gluteal region. Although the piriformis is small, it plays a significant role in hip and leg mobility. And when your hips, legs, or glutes are tight, it can cause low back pain. It is vital to stretch all these muscles as it may have a direct impact on the discomfort you are feeling. 

Try it:

  1. Sit on the floor with feet firmly on the ground and your hands on the floor behind you for support.

  2. Then, cross one leg over the other, with your ankle resting on the opposite knee.

  3. Gently press the inside of the knee that is crossed and lean forward until a simple stretch is felt.

Hold the stretch from 10-30 seconds, repeating on the opposite side. 

Modifications: If this causes any discomfort, try the stretch from a seated position on a chair instead. 

Overhead Arm Reach 

The overhead arm targets your upper back, shoulders, and neck. 

Try it:

  1. Begin in a sitting or standing position.

  2. Stretch your arms over your head. 

  3. Lean to the left, with your arms fully extended, near your ears. If you need more tension to feel an effect, you can use the left hand to gently pull the right arm to the left.

  4. Return to the starting position.

  5. Repeat the stretch two times on both sides, performing each stretch for 30 seconds.

Modifications: If this causes any discomfort, you can try it sitting in a chair. 

Single Knee to Chest 

The single knee to chest is a very simple and gentle stretch for your glutes. It can also be easily modified by pulling on your knee with more or less force.

Try it:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor.

  2. Raise one knee so that you can grasp your leg just below your knees and interlock your fingers.

  3. Gently pull your knee toward your body until you feel a sufficient stretch.

  4. Try to relax your legs, hips and lower back as you perform the motion. 

  5. Hold for 30 seconds.

  6. Release and repeat on the other leg.

Repeat the exercise 2 times on each leg.

Modifications: If this causes any discomfort, just pull more gently on your leg. 

Need More Help from Goodpath? 

Regular stretching combined with the right exercise techniques and lifestyle choices can be very helpful to your back pain.

Be sure to take Goodpath’s quiz to create a custom back pain program. After you answer a few short questions, we can build you an integrative treatment plan that is specifically designed for you.

We analyze  your medical history, lifestyle choices, age, and other factors before building a personalized kit delivered right to your doorstep.