Knowing how to stretch your lower back can make a huge difference when it comes to preventing lower back pain, an incredibly common condition that can result from workouts, poor posture, spinal problems, or injury.
Certain fitness equipment can be useful for stretching and strengthening your back, such as foam rollers or a set of the best resistance bands. And one of the many benefits of yoga is that it stretches out your back, too.
Are you wondering – what does stretching do to your body? Read on if you're experiencing some stiffness and need some relief.
- Related: 8 benefits of stretching
What causes lower back pain?
Before we get into how to stretch your lower back muscles, let's discuss the common causes for lower back pain. Depending on the cause of your pain, you may wish to take a different approach to stretching altogether.
We spoke with Alexandra Merisoiu, founder of Move Wild Academy and Legacy Karate. She holds a Level 4 certificate in physical activity and lifestyle strategies for managing low back pain. "Lower back pain is often caused by poor posture, tight muscles and lack of general mobility and flexibility," she said. "This is called non-specific lower back pain as it is not caused by events such as accidents, slipped discs or any other obvious reason."
This kind of pain is important to address, as it can eventually lead to injuries in other muscle groups due to the added tension. "Moreover the discomfort can affect your mood, concentration, productivity and general wellbeing," she says.
Merisoiu recommends doing regular stretches to relieve tension in the lower back, while also working on improving posture and increasing mobility and flexibility to prevent this type of lower back pain in the future.
If you're wondering how to achieve this, our handy guide on how to improve your flexibility is a good place to start. You could also try strengthening the muscles in the area by doing some simple dumbbell back exercises.
Treat your lower back pain with stretches
Or, if you have lower back pain caused by tension due to lack of mobility or poor posture, here are some stretches that Merisoiu recommends trying.
Sit on knees with your glutes on your heels. Bend forwards from the hips, place your hands on the floor in front of you and reach as far as you can, whilst keeping your glutes on your heels. Hold for as long as you like and 'breathe' into your lower back.
To stretch your hip flexors, take a long step forwards with one of your feet. Bend your front knee and back knee, and lift the back heel off the floor. Ensure your front heel is rooted into the ground. You should feel the stretch in front of your rear leg at the hip. Hold for max 30 seconds on each side.
Knees to chest
Lie on your back, bring your knees as close to your chest as possible and bring your forehead to your knees. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat.
Glutes and piriformis stretch
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your left ankle over your right thigh, just under the knee. Place your hands behind the right thigh and rest your back and head on the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and change sides.
Kneel on the ground and reach behind you to grab your outer ankles with your hands. Place your forehead on the ground just in front of your knees. Lift your glutes towards the sky and feel the stretch through your lower back.
- Related: 10 stretches to do every day
Use a resistance band to stretch
To add to your stretches, you can also use a resistance band, like the TRX Strength Bands. Here are a few more stretches you can try with a resistance band to increase mobility in the muscles in and around the lower back.
Sit with both legs stretched out in front of you. Loop the band around both feet. Pull on both ends of the band so that the body comes closer to the thighs in a forward fold. Try to avoid rounding the upper or lower back.
Sit with one leg straight out to the side and the other leg bent, with the sole of the foot touching the inner thigh of the straight leg. Loop the band over the foot of the straight leg. Grab both ends of the band the opposite hand and stretch laterally over the straight leg, keeping your body facing forwards. You should feel a stretch through the side body and the side of the lower back.
Outer glutes stretch
Lie on your back with one leg stretched out in front of you. Loop the other foot through the band like a strap, then hold onto both sides of the band together. Turn out your leg, bending at the knee at a 90 degree angle, then pull the foot in the band towards you, so that the entire leg comes closer to the chest. Keep your lower back flat to the floor. You should feel a stretch in your outer glute and a release in your lower back.
How to prevent lower back pain in the future
While stretches can be hugely beneficial in relieving lower back pain, it's also important to change your lifestyle to prevent lower back pain in the future. Here are a few ways you can stop the pain for good.
- Improve your sitting posture. Merisoiu says, "Ensure your entire back is on the back of the seat with your butt close to the seat. Avoid forming a gap between your lower back and the seat."
- Stay active. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, try to get up and move every hour or so to prevent tension building up in your lower back, and to improve the natural mobility in your joints.
- Incorporate a resistance band into your workouts. This will strengthen the muscles around your lower back and prevent pain. Try adding a resistance band to your squats, lateral leg raises, bridges, and more.
Sign up for the Live Science daily newsletter now
Get the world’s most fascinating discoveries delivered straight to your inbox.
Meg Walters is a freelance journalist and features writer. Raised in Canada and based in South East London, Meg covers culture, entertainment, lifestyle, and health. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, i-D, Refinery29, Stylist, GQ, Shondaland, Healthline, HelloGiggles and other publications.
When she's not writing, Meg is probably daydreaming about traveling the world, re-watching an old rom-com with a glass of wine, or wasting time on Twitter, where you can follow her @wordsbymeg.