If you ever feel like you somehow miss the mark when you attempt a low back stretch—even though you know those muscles are very tight and you make every effort to release them—you are not alone. For many of us, stretching the hip, neck, calf, and other muscles is a pretty straightforward deal. But the back muscles? Not so much. These can get so tight that they become hard to reach. Finding the sweet spot for stretchiness in low back muscles can be difficult if you don’t choose the right exercise for the job.
It’s also important to note that there are many possible reasons for experiencing lower back pain, and it’s a good idea to consult with a physical therapist to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.
When stretching, it’s important to warm up your muscles first, avoid bouncing, and stretch gradually. Don’t overstretch – only stretch until you feel a slight stretch, and hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
1. Lower Back Stretch
Stretching your lower back will be very helpful in relieving your lower back pain. Kneel on all fours, with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders. Make sure your spine is in a neutral position. Keep your head in line with your spine, and your shoulders back, and avoid locking your elbows. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, slowly move your butt back toward your heels. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. As you inhale, bring your body back to all fours. Repeat six to eight times.
2. Lower Tummy Strengthening
The strengthening of lower abdominal muscles is essential because they work in conjunction with the lower back muscles. In the case of weak lower abdominals, the lower back can become tight, which can ultimately result in lower back pain.
An excellent exercise to tone the lower abdominal muscles is illustrated in the image below. It is both gentle and effective. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet resting on the floor. Inhale and exhale while bringing one knee towards your chest, and then inhale again as you return the foot to the ground. Repeat this exercise on each leg six to eight times.
If you experience any back discomfort, avoid doing this exercise or postpone it until your back is better.
3. Deep Abdominal Strengthening
A very important muscle that needs to be strengthened is the transverse abdominis, which strongly supports the lower back. In many people, this muscle is extremely weak and this can lead to back pain. A very gentle and safe way to strengthen this muscle is shown below. To perform this exercise, lie on your back, place a small pillow under your head and bend your knees. Your feet should be placed hip distance apart and on the floor. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently supported. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, focus on pulling your belly button toward your spine. Hold this gentle contraction for 5 to 10 seconds. As you exhale, relax your abdominal muscles. This is a slow, gentle squeeze, so try to use less than 25% of your maximum strength. Repeat this five times.