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10 Best Stretches to Ease Your Lower Back Pain, According to Trainers

These exercises will bring you the relief you’ve been craving.


Read when you’ve got time to spare.

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When you’re dealing with the aches and, oftentimes, debilitating soreness of lower-back pain, there’s a good chance all you want to do is stay in bed. But research shows that doing a combination of strength and aerobic exercises and stretching two to three times a week can help prevent and ease lower-back pain.

The nice thing about gentle stretching is that it’s feasible to do when you’re in pain—and often provides the fastest relief, says Jamie Costello, fitness director at the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa, who recommends these five stretches for the next time back pain strikes.

💡A few tips to keep in mind before you get started💡

  • Aim to hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds and preferably 30 seconds or longer. The pain-relieving benefits will increase the longer you hold these stretches.
  • Rather than rush through the moves, Costello recommends turning on soothing music and using this stretching time as a chance to relax and renew.
  • Don’t forget to breathe! It may sound silly, but focusing on using your breath can help you cope with any feelings of discomfort.

1. Child’s Pose

This common yoga pose gently stretches the muscles of the low back, which are likely contracted if you’re in pain.

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How to do child’s pose: Begin in tabletop position on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Extend your arms out in front of you, placing your palms flat on the floor. Slowly sit your hips back toward your heels, dropping your head and chest downward as your arms extend further and reach for the wall in front of you. If this stretch is too much, place a pillow under your belly to prop yourself up a bit and lessen the stretch of the low-back muscles. Hold this pose for 20 to 30 seconds or even longer.

2. Cat/Cow Stretch

This dynamic movement moves the low-back muscles in two directions and builds on Child’s Pose to help lengthen contracted muscles and soothe soreness.

How to a cat/cow stretch: Begin in tabletop position on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Your spine should be parallel to the ground in this position. Then, round your back, stretching your mid-back between your shoulder blades—similar to how a cat stretches by rounding its back. Hold for five seconds, then relax and let your stomach fall downward as you gently arch your low back and hold here for another five seconds. Repeat these movements for 30 seconds or longer.

3. Supine Twist

This stretch not only helps to stretch your lower back but also your glutes, which can tighten when you're experiencing low back pain, ultimately causing more pain.

woman stretching

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How to do a supine twist: Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms out to the side in a “T” position. Keep your shoulders on the ground as you gently roll both knees to one side. Stay here 20 to 30 seconds, then return your knees to the center and repeat on the other side. If the stretch is too much for you, place a pillow or stack of blankets under your knees when you twist to each side.

4. Knee-to-Chest Stretch

Similar to the other stretches on this list, this pose lengthens contracted low back muscles.

woman stretching

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How to do knee-to-chest stretch: Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring your hands to rest either behind your knees or right below your kneecaps. Slowly bring both knees toward your chest, using your hands to gently pull your knees. Hold here 20 to 30 seconds, and try rocking your hips side to side and up and down to help massage your low back, then return to starting position.

5. The Pelvic Tilt

When you’re suffering from lower-back pain, you might feel as if your entire pelvic area is immovable. This stretch can help you start to bring some movement back to this area gently.

woman stretching

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How to do a pelvic tilt: Begin by lying on a yoga mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Try to relax your low back, keeping it in a neutral position (which means you should feel a slight curve in your low back if you place the top of your hand under your back). Activate your core muscles and then flatten your low back against the floor by slightly tilting your pelvis upward. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

6. Supine Figure 4 Stretch

This classic yoga pose helps open up the hips as much as it is good for massaging your low back. “This pose stretches the outer glutes, as well as your piriformis, both of which can contribute to a tight lower back,” says Hilary Wright, Y7 instructor and director of continuing education.

woman stretching

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How to do a supine figure 4 stretch: Lie on your back on a yoga mat with both knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Lift your right leg, flex your right foot and cross your right ankle over your left thigh. If this is enough stay here, or draw your left knee in and hold behind your left thigh to increase the intensity. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths and then switch to the other side.

7. Reclining Hand-to-Big Toe Stretch (Supta padangusthasana)

“Tight hamstrings and adductors, aka your inner thighs, can contribute to a tight lower back,” Wright explains. This pose stretches things out by loosening up these muscles.

woman stretching

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How to do a reclining hand-to-big toe stretch: Lie on your back and lift your right leg up towards your face.

Interlace your hands behind your thigh or calf, depending on how tight your hamstrings feel. Keep your opposite leg active and your opposite hip grounded. Your head and shoulders should stay on the ground. Hold for 10 breaths. Now, still keeping your opposite hip grounded, let your right leg lower out to the right. Only lower the right leg out to the side so far as you can without the opposite hip lifting up.

8. Cow-Face Pose (Gomukhasana)

This pose stretches your outer glutes, which can cause low back pain they they’re tight, says Wright.

woman stretching

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How to do cow-face pose: From a seated position, bring your left heel toward your right glute, with your left knee pointing straight in front of you. Now bring your right leg on top of your left, stacking your knees together so they are both facing straight ahead. It’s ok if they don’t stack directly on top of one another. Your feet should be on either side of you, toes pointing behind you. Keep your spine long by sitting up tall, or add a slight forward bend to increase intensity.

9. Bridge Pose

“Softening around your sacrum allows some tension around the low back to be released and lengthening through the sit bones encourages activation of the lower part of your gluteus maximus, which helps to support your low back, releasing pain and tension,” Wright says.

woman stretching

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How to do bridge pose: Lying on your back, bend your knees and plant both feet on the yoga mat. Be sure your feet are hip-width apart with your heels close to your glutes. Press into your feet to lift your hips. From here try to soften around your sacrum, and lengthen your sit bones toward your knees. Hold for 30 seconds.

10. Forearm Plank

Wright says this variation of the plank activates your core, which will help take some pressure out of your low back by strengthening the muscles around it.

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How to do a forearm plank: From the top of a push-up position, drop your forearms onto the mat directly underneath your shoulders. You can interlace your hands or bring the forearms parallel to one another, depending on how your shoulders feel. Kick through the heels and engage your core. Hold for at least 30 seconds, working your way up to one minute.

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This post originally appeared on Prevention and was published September 27, 2019. This article is republished here with permission.

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