A woman doing a forward fold

4 lower back stretches to relieve tight muscles and reduce pain

Posted by for Strength

These expert-recommended low back stretches are so simple you can do them from bed. 

Whether it’s tight hips or hunched shoulders, we’ve all got our fair share of body aches. But pain in our lower back is the most common of them all: according to the World Health Organisation, up to 70% of people can expect to suffer from low back pain at some point in their life. 

There’s many reasons why – from weak muscles to bad posture, and more serious issues such as scoliosis – but the pain we feel in our back can also be the fault of other muscles and joints. “It’s often a referred pain,” explains Chatty Dobson, yoga teacher and owner of Flex Chelsea. “For instance, if we spend a lot of time sitting, running or cycling, our psoas muscle will tighten. The psoas is a pair of large muscles running from the lumbar spine, through the pelvis to the femur (thigh bone). When these tighten, our lower back can feel sore – though it’s really the hip flexors and psoas that need stretching out.”

The key is to focus on full body mobility, strength and flexibility to stop your back from hurting. But there’s nothing quite like releasing the tension out of a sore back with a good stretch. Dobson says that you should do a mixture of dynamic stretches – those with a little movement or pulses – and static, or still, holds. 

“Dynamic movement increases the mobility of the muscle group being focused on, and also increases blood flow to that area,” she explains. “Static stretches get into the fascia in the joints, bringing increased blood and synovial fluid to tight areas. But static stretches pre-exercise can bring a looseness to the body that will not support you through a workout.”

Here are four her favourite stretches for the lower back to help relieve pain. 

Forward fold

  1. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend the knees and fold your upper body forwards over your legs. 
  3. You can emphasise the lower back by tilting your pelvis forwards.
  4. Gently start to straighten the legs to intensify the stretch, too. 
  5. There’s also the option to take hold of opposite elbows and use the weight to draw your arms down to the floor. 

Hold for 30 seconds minimum

Twists

Twists are great for easing tension in the lower back and abdominals. They can be done both sitting at a desk or lying down.

Sitting: 

  1. Sit up straight with your legs extended in front of you. 
  2. Twist your torso to the right side, bringing your left hand to your left knee and right hand just behind your right hip. 
  3. Gently pull yourself further into the stretch using your hands. Try to keep the shoulders drawing down the back. 
  4. Repeat on the left.

    Hold each side 30 seconds minimum


Lying: 

  1. Lying flat on the floor, draw both knees into the chest. 
  2. Take the arms out to the side, then drop your knees over to the left. 
  3. Try to keep both shoulders grounded to intensify the stretch. 
  4. Repeat on the right.

    Hold each side 30 seconds minimum

stretch-yoga-fitness
Stretching: bringing gentle mobility to the lower spine can release built up tension.

Child’s pose

This traditional yoga pose works the glutes, hamstrings and stretches all up the spine, neck and shoulders.

  1. Start in a kneeling position with your bum on your heels and knees open at the edge of your mat. 
  2. Gently walk your hands forwards until your forehead reaches the ground.
  3. Keep your arms extended in front of you.

Hold each side 30 seconds minimum

Pelvic tilt

Bringing gentle mobility to the lower spine can release built up tension. Again, pelvic tilts can be done both sitting and lying down, so perfect for your desk or your bedroom floor.

Sitting: 

  1. Sitting up tall, gently rock your pelvis back and forward. 
  2. When your pelvis tilts forwards you’ll feel an arch coming into the spine and when you tilt it back you’ll round through the back. Try to keep your abdominals engaged so support the spine.

    Repeat 10 times

Lying:

  1. Lying down, bend the knees to bring them to the sky and place your feet firmly on the floor, hip-width apart. 
  2. Engage your abs, gently tuck the pelvis and draw the tailbone under, and then release.

    Repeat 10 times

Images: Pexels/Getty

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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