I bet all of us as some point or another have had lower back pain, so here are 7 best stretches for lower back pain. 
 
For some of us, lower back pain is something that keeps cycling back. More than two thirds of those who recover from a back injury will experience a reoccurrence within the first year after recovery. That sucks. No one wants that.
 
That’s why you need a “toolbox” with the best stretches for lower back pain. Read on!
 

Why Do We Get Lower Back Pain?

 
Oftentimes with lower back pain–especially chronic low back pain–there is rarely one single reason why someone has it. Finding the source of the back pain is tricky. Why? Because pain in complex (more on that in another post!)
 
Yes, your lower back pain may be caused by something structural or mechanical. For example, it may be due to daily habits or your posture. Those who perform repetitive flexion for work may also be at increased risk of developing lower back pain (Side note: there is little evidence that your posture CAUSES your back pain, but it most certainly will worsen or improve the pain present).
 
Let me also remind you, that your spine is RESILIENT, not fragile. It was made to take and distribute forces within your body. Even if injured, all tissues within the body heal within 12 weeks. The body is truly amazing.
 
Your lower back pain could also be due to a sensitive nervous system. Pain is not always a TISSUE problem, it could very well be that your nervous system is sensitized to certain movements, possibly due to a history of injury, learned behaviors, or your beliefs about your pain.
 
Let’s also remember that what you think, how you feel, your social context, relationships, and stress all influence your experience of lower back pain.
 
As you can see, I cannot give you one bullet point answer for why you have lower back pain. But…
 
Yes, it could be structural and tissue based.
Yes, it could be a sensitive nervous system.
Yes, it could be stress related.
It could even be a nice cocktail of all of the above.
 
That is why it is critical to find a good physical therapist to help you tease all of this out, to really get to the root cause(s) of your lower back pain, and provide an individualized plan for you to beat it. Cue the Michael Jackson music…
 
 

The 7 Best Stretches For Lower Back Pain

 
Just because lower back pain can be complex (sometimes it isn’t), does not mean there are not things you can do about it. Stretching is a great tool to beat lower back pain. Movement matters, and can make a huge difference when your back pain doesn’t seem to let off.
 
Here are my favorite 7 best stretches for lower back pain. Give these a try! Some may do wonders for you, others not so much. Use the ones that help you the most. I would recommend doing them daily–especially if your back pain is a problem that seems to pop up often.
 

Lower Back Pain Stretch #1: Knee To Chest Stretch

 
Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain-Knee to Chest
 
Start by lying on the floor or yoga mat, knees bent with feet flat on the floor. Connect with your breath. Imagine the muscles along both sides of your spine releasing, letting go.
 
Next, bring both knees up toward your chest. Give your legs a “hug.” Keep the neck relaxed. Lower the legs gently back down to the floor. As your feet touch back down on the floor, exhale, letting the tension release in the lower back.
 
Repeat this action of moving your legs closer to your belly 10 times. Keep breathing.
 
On the last repetition, for a little treat, keep your knees hugged in toward your belly with your arms around them. Then, gently rock from your right to your left–as many times you like. Let this movement massage your paraspinals (the muscles on either side of your spine).
 
Release the legs back to the floor. Come back to your breath.
 

Lower Back Pain Stretch #2: Cobra or Upward Facing Dog

 

Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain-Baby Cobra

 
Start by lying on the floor or yoga mat on your belly. 
 
Let your forehead rest on tops of your stacked hands. Let your pinky toes be heavy on the mat (favoring internal rotation of the thighs). Bring awareness to your breath.
 
Next, bring your hands down close in line with your armpits, elbows point up toward the ceiling. Keep your vision at the floor beneath you.
 
Then, gently lift up with your back muscles that may have been lying dormant with all that sitting you did today. You can come up as far as you want–whether than be halfway with elbows still partially bent, or into full elbow extension.
 
If you choose to use the back muscles to lift you halfway, focus on activating the muscles in your back–the WHOLE back, not necessarily the low back. Use the upper back muscles, too. Do this 10 times.
 
Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain-Upward Facing Dog
 
If you choose to come up fully, with elbows extended, a nice option is to let the pelvis “grow heavy” and exhale, releasing the lower back. Make sure there is space between your ears and your shoulders. 
 
Repeat this 10 times.
 
This feels wonderful after sitting all day!
 

Lower Back Pain Stretch #3: Supine Spinal Twist

 

Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain-Supine Spinal Twist

 
Start by lying on the floor or yoga mat on your back. 
 
Bring attention to your breath. Engage your left leg, contracting the quadriceps muscle (like you are pushing the back of your knee into the mat) and flexing the foot. Bend your right knee, and bring your right leg up toward your belly.
 
Then, keeping the left leg engaged like you’re pushing something away with your foot, let your right knee cross your body to your left, using your left hand to guide it closer to the floor. Keep breathing. Bring your right arm out to the side, and turn your head right.
 
Visualize your entire body growing longer with each breath.
 
Hold here for anywhere between 5-8 breaths, depending on what you need.
 

Lower Back Pain Stretch #4: Reclined Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose With Two Straps

 
Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain-Reclined Hand to Big Toe Pose with 2 straps
 
Sit on the floor with or without a yoga mat. 
 
Loop one strap into a circle, place it in your hip crease and then around your opposite foot. The metal adjustment on the strap should be on the outside of your thigh so you can adjust as needed. It should be taut enough so that there isn’t much slack. If you were to point your toes away from your head, you would feel it tighten into the hip crease. 
 
Have the other strap nearby.
 
Lie down on your back. The strap that is around your foot, straighten that leg flat on the floor. The other knee is bent with your foot on the floor, and readjust the strap into the hip crease if you need. Again, it should be taut but not cutting off circulation (why hello there, femoral artery).
 
Take the other strap, loop it around the foot of the leg that has the strap in the hip crease. Bring that foot up in the air once the strap is set in the hip crease. Hold the strap with both hands, while it’s looped around the foot. Elbows straight, draw the shoulders down and back. 
 
Straighten the leg (as you can tolerate) that is up by contracting the front side of the thigh.
 
With your foot that is on the floor, push your foot away from you. You can plantarflex (push your toes away) your foot to provide the distraction force at the hip, creating space. This may feel intense if you have tight hamstrings or a tight hip.
 
Breathe. Always keep the breath going. See if you can extend your exhale.
 
Hold for 5-8 breath cycles. Repeat if desired. Switch legs.
 

Lower Back Pain Stretch #5: Cat/Cow, with low back emphasis

 
Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain-Cat
 
Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain-Cow
 
Many of us are familiar with cat/cow. I want to add something on to this to REALLY target the lumbar spine, or lower back.
 
Come onto all fours on the floor or yoga mat. Hands in line with shoulders, knees in line with hips. Bring attention to your breath.
 
With your next exhale, start to tuck your bum under, rounding the spine from your pelvis all the way up to your head. This is the “cat.”
 
With your next inhale, start unwinding that motion by tilting the pelvis forward, letting the belly drop towards the earth. The spine grows heavy, letting your belly, chest sink closer to the earth, then your chin lifts up. This is the “cow.”
 
Do this several times in sync with your breath, visualizing your spine as a slinky. Try to move every part of that slinky.
 
Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain-Cat with Low BackEmphasis
 
Then, shift your weight farther back, setting your hips BEHIND your knees. Then I want you to lift your lower back up toward the ceiling. Drop it back down, then lift it back up. Focusing more on the lumbar spine or lower back with this movement. Do this 10 times.
 

Lower Back Pain Stretch #6: Quadratus Lumborum Stretch

 
Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain-Quadratus Lumborum Stretch
 
This is a fun one. 
 
There are a few ways to stretch this muscle, so if this way doesn’t resonate with you, don’t give up on it. Here is a video I did on it a while back.
 
Grab a chair without wheels, or else you will end up on the floor. Place either a yoga bolster or two depending on thickness, on the chair. You can also stack some sturdy pillows on the chair. You will be stretching the side body here.
 
Drop the right side of your pelvis toward the chair, but just below the pillows. Let yourself relax onto the pillows or bolster, with your right side supported by your props. Feel free to let you right arm drift up overhead, alongside your ear. Your left arm you can place on the floor.
 
Extend out your arms and legs, really targeting stretching the space between your rib cage and pelvis. Breathe.
 
Stay here for 5 to 8 breaths. Switch sides.
 
*You may need to play with this a bit, depending on your body shape. Feel free to come up and out of it, readjust the position of your pelvis, then stretch back over the props you are using.
 

Lower Back Pain Stretch #7: Low Lunge

 

Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain-Low Lunge
 
Start in a lunge position, one leg in front of the other. Let your back knee rest on the floor. You can place extra padding under your back knee.
 
In the low lunge position, let your hands rest on your hips or your front thigh. Then, with your exhale, pull the lower belly into towards your spine, drift your pelvis forward closer in the direction of the front foot.
 
It is fine if your front knee goes farther forward over your toes.
 
Keep your breath going, belly drawn in with a slight posterior tilt of your pelvis (like you are tucking your tailbone) as you stretch the front of your back thigh.
 
Stay here for 5-8 breath cycles. Switch sides.
 
*If you need more support here, you can rest your hands on a chair or on blocks at your side like I am in the photo.
 
 
 
 
Emily Warren

Dr. Emily Warren

Dr. Emily is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Integrative Spine Specialist. She is the owner of Emily Warren Physical Therapy in Salt Lake City, Utah. She lives with her husband, 2 girls, 1 pup and enjoys anything outdoors. She wants people with back and neck pain to feel empowered and hopeful, and get back to the active lives they want. She has helped many people resolve their pain through physical therapy and online coaching. Check out her website HERE for more information on how she can help you.