6 Simple Stretches to Ease Lower Back Pain | mattsspot.com

6 Simple Stretches to Ease Lower Back Pain

YOU’RE AT THE GYM, hovering around the squat racks with your gym buddies waiting for one to open up. As you’re milling around, the topic of aches and pains inevitably becomes the focus of your conversation. The top complaint? Chances are, it’s low back pain.

Low back pain is incredibly common, according to physical therapist Daniel Giordano, DPT, PT, C.S.C.S. of Bespoke Treatments in New York City. Nearly 80 percent of people experience back pain for a handful of reasons, he says.

If you’ve experienced back pain yourself, you know that it can make just about any movement uncomfortable, from sitting to walking to lifting. You do have some options to address the pain—but it helps to understand a little more about the issue before taking action.

What Can Cause Lower Back Pain?

There are several reasons someone may develop low back pain. One of the main causes is sitting too much, says Giordano— go figure. If you don’t have a desk job, though, there may be other reasons you’re feeling the pinch. You could be overusing your back by working out or moving too much. Being overweight, or having poor form when lifting can also cause back pain.

What Muscles Are in Your Low Back?

The low back is an important connection point of the body, connecting your legs to your torso. Your low back is considered to be your lumbar spine, which are the last five of your vertebrae. It’s an intersection for a bunch of muscles; hence why it is so easily irritated. Muscles from the mid to upper back, like the lats, erector spinae, and quadratus lumborum stretch all the way down to the low back. Injury in muscles from the back of the legs, like the gluteals and hamstrings, can also cause pain to radiate into the low back.

Who Needs These Stretches?

If you’re part of the unfortunate 80 percent of people that experience low back pain, why not try these out and see if you can get relief? Your body is likely begging for some blood flow and mobility work, especially if you’re chained to your desk most of the day. This routine is quick and dirty— toss it in between meetings or during your lunch break.

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Even if you’re not feeling the pain quite yet, but you sit for extended periods of time, or you put a lot of strain through your back, it might be worth it to toss in these stretches preemptively. If you’re an avid lifter or have an active job, it’s possible to overuse your low back and tweak it. So, it’s better to stay ahead of injury and keep these stretches in your repertoire. You’ll thank yourself later.

What to Know Before You Stretch Your Lower Back

Just remember: If your pain persists or you feel that the movements exacerbate the issue, you might need more individualized treatment. Consider seeking the help of a medical pro (like a physical therapist) for guidance to determine what exactly will help you to improve your specific issue and find a path to a pain-free life.

If your problems aren’t so extreme, you have other options before seeking treatment. There are several stretches you can do to get some much needed blood flow to the area and release some tightness. Here, Giordano and colleague Cameron Yuen, DPT, PT, C.S.C.S. provide a stretch routine that may do just that. Try them out next time you’re feeling some aches and pain—Giordano suggests spending 20 minutes a day going through the movements to help. All you’ll need is a foam roller, a mini band, comfortable clothing that allows for movement, and some space on the floor to spread out.

6 Stretches to Relieve Lower Back Pain

Glute Foam Roll

It’s important first “soften the tissue around your lower back,” Giordano says. To do this, you need to create blood flow and circulation to the area. That’s where a foam roller comes in handy. This blood flow will help relax the tissue surrounding painful area— starting with the glutes.

How to Do It:

  • Take a seat on the foam roller.
  • Slightly lean your weight onto your right glute first, bending your right knee to roll back and forth and then role side to side to soften the tissue.
  • Apply pressure side to side, to hit all angles. If you feel any pain, make sure you keep moving through the painful spot, do not stay on it for too long.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Quad Foam Rolling

Tightness in your quads and hip flexors can cause come compensation in your low back, Giordano says. To release any tightness, we need to take a similar approach as with the glutes, using a foam roller to promote blood flow to the area.

How to Do It:

  • Flip over onto your stomach and place the foam roller right underneath your thigh to target the quad muscle.
  • Lie on your stomach, with your quad on top of the foam roller.
  • Roll up on the foam roller up to the top of your hip bone. This will help to address the TFL muscle.
  • Shift to side-to-side movement to soften the tissue around your hip flexor.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

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Lumbar Windshield

After loosening up, it’s time for mobility work. “We want to make sure that the joint is fully moving through its proper range of motion” to avoid excessively loading the lower back, explains Giordano.

How to Do It:

  • Go into the bridge position, lying flat on the ground with your knees shoulder-width apart and your feet a bit wider than that.
  • Shift your hips to drop your knees side-to-side.
  • If you feel any sort of pain while you swivel from side to side, don’t try to push farther than that range.
  • Do this eight times on each side.

Cat Cow Stretch

Sticking with the mobility portion of this routine, the cat cow stretch works the mobility of the spine. This yoga staple will help to ensure “the spine is moving properly and safely,” says Giordano.

How to Do It:

  • Get down on the ground on all fours. Stack your hips over your knees and shoulders over your wrists, with your head in a neutral position.
  • Lift your stomach all the way up and tuck your head underneath, and then come down and go into the extension phase and look straight up. That’s one rep.
  • Do eight reps.


You might be surprised to see this exercise, which most people tend to associate with ab workouts, in the mix—but this serves as a stabilization move so that everything is strong and compressed with no pressure on your lower back.

How to Do It:

  • Activate your core by coming into a modified plank position on your knees.
  • Focus on keeping your chest away from the ground. Start by holding for about 15 seconds, gradually working up to 30 and then 45 seconds.
  • Next, progress to a full plank (with your knees off the ground). You should work to squeeze your core to stabilize the low back.

Banded Bridge

We stabilized the core, and now it’s time to stabilize the hips. Hip activation will retrain the glute muscles to function properly and “keep the pelvis solid so that there’s less pressure on the low back,” says Giordano. You’ll need a mini-band for this movement.

How to Do It:

  • Lie on your back and wrap a band right below your knee caps with your feet on the floor.
  • Push through your heels and lift your butt in the air, being careful not to come up too high on your back.
  • Stop when there’s a straight line from your knee to your hips to your shoulders. Then drop back down.
  • Do eight to 10 reps.

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