Stretches to Relieve and Prevent Lower Back Pain

Stretches to Relieve and Prevent Lower Back Pain

By Michael Camacho, PT, DPT, OCS, Orthopedic Clinical Specialist/Clinic Director

Do you have lower back pain? You’re not alone. Lower back pain is a common condition that affects about 80% of people in the United States and 25% of them report having low back pain within the past 3 months. Low back pain can impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep, exercise, work, everyday tasks, and social/recreational activities. In most cases, lower back pain will respond well to conservative treatments by a physical therapist.

Michael Camacho, PT, DPT, OCS an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist/Clinical Director at Professional Physical Therapy confirms, “Low back pain is one the conditions we see the most frequently in the clinic that can be significantly improved with patient education, hands-on care and prescribed exercise to improve and restore normal mobility and movement.”

Mike shares a few factors that contribute to lower back pain and 5 stretches that can give you some relief.

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

  • Impaired movement (bad lifting technique/form)
  • Poor posture
  • Prolonged positioning i.e., sitting 8 hours straight
  • Weakness/muscle imbalances
  • Physical activity (sedentary and excessive/strenuous activities)
  • Stress and anxiety

Stretches for Back Pain Relief

Stretching to alleviate lower back pain should be prescribed by a doctor or physical therapist especially if you have any type of injury or health concern. But if you have been living with mild discomfort or stiffness, these 5 stretches may help reduce the pain, improve your movement and posture, and prevent low back pain. It is also a great way to incorporate movement into your daily life.

Seated Thoracic Lumbar Extension

Source: Cascade Health Center

Set Up:
Begin sitting upright with your hands behind your head.

Slowly arch your back and let your elbows fall out to the sides. You should feel a stretch in your chest. Hold briefly, then return to an upright position and repeat.

Make sure to keep your movements slow and controlled and move only within a pain free range of motion.



Standing Lumbar Extension

Source: South Carolina Spine Center

Set Up:
Begin in a standing upright position with your hands resting on your hips.

Slowly arch your trunk backwards and hold.

Make sure to maintain your balance during the exercise and do not bend your knees.



Side-lying Open Book Thoracic Lumbar Rotation

Source: Regions Hospital

Begin lying on your side with your bottom leg straight, your top leg bent at 90 a degree angle, and your arms straight on the ground together.

Slowly move your top arm away from your other arm, toward the floor on the other side, rotating your trunk at the same time.

Make sure to keep your top leg on the floor and only go as far as you can without arching your back.


Supine Piriformis Stretch

Source: South Carolina Spine Center

Begin lying on your back with one leg bent and your other leg straight.

Pull your bent knee toward your opposite shoulder and hold. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your buttocks.

Tip:  Make sure to keep your back flat against the bed during the stretch.

Doorway Pec Stretch

Source: Allegheny Health Network

Begin in a standing upright position in the center of a doorway.

With your elbows bent, place your hands on the sides of the doorway at roughly a 120-degree angle from your sides, then take a small step forward until your feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders. Hold this position.

Tip Make sure to maintain a gentle stretch and do not shrug your shoulders during the exercise.

Signs That it’s Time to See a Physical Therapist or Doctor

If your low back pain is accompanied by the following symptoms, you should visit your local emergency room immediately:

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Numbness in the groin or inner thigh
  • Recent onset of significant weakness in the legs i.e., foot drop

If any of the following applies to your back pain, then it’s time to make an appointment with a Physical Therapist or doctor.

  • Pain is traveling away from the back to other parts of the body
  • Pain that does not allow you to sleep through the night

How Physical Therapy Can Help

Physical therapy for lower back pain includes guided therapeutic exercises that strengthen the lower back and core muscles. PTs can help you with:

  • Postural training
  • Ergonomics
  • Lumbar stabilizing exercise
  • Core strengthening exercise

Professional PT’s Michael Camacho weighs in on the best thing you can do for your lower back and says, “Don’t stay in one position for too long. The biggest advice I can give to prevent back pain is to keep your spine neutral. And I recommend getting up and moving for about ten minutes, every hour. Getting up every hour for 8 hours a day is in most cases better than doing one set of exercises.”

Professional Physical Therapy is the treatment of choice by medical professionals to help patients who are experiencing back pain. If you have lower back pain or discomfort, request an appointment at Professional Physical Therapy. We will come up with a custom program for you to get your life healthier and more comfortable today!

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