It’s 6 a.m. and your alarm is buzzing… You reach over to hit the snooze button and feel something catch in your back…
Or maybe it’s mid-afternoon and you reach over to pick up yet another toy left behind by your toddler… Perhaps it’s evening and the kids are finally in bed. You sit down in your favorite chair and flick on the TV…
“Oh no,” you think. “Not again!”
Your back seizes and you struggle to catch your breath as an electric shock shoots down your leg. You feel that annoying ache in your lower back that’s been bothering you off and on all day… You’ve been meaning to do some of those stretches for back pain you read about, but time keeps getting away from you.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you’re not alone.
Back pain is the number one reason Americans go to their doctor, and that number increases every year.
We spend billions of dollars every year on treatment for back pain. We want quick and easy pain relief so we don’t have to miss work or time with family. Rest, ice and medications provide temporary relief, but don’t address the root cause of our suffering.
There is an easier way.
Why Stretching is So Effective for Back Pain Relief
Research shows that stretching is one of the most effective treatments for chronic back pain. Conventional stretching and more traditional forms of yoga are both beneficial. According to researchers, yoga has additional benefits beyond just pain relief. Increased flexibility and balance from practicing yoga may help prevent injuries, too.
How can something as simple as stretching help relieve back pain, you ask? There are several ways. Stretches for back pain can:
- Reduce stress on your joints
- Increase blood flow and circulation to muscles and joints
- Help to prepare your muscles for activity and protect against injury
- Help improve flexibility in muscles, ligaments and joints
- Release tension in the fascia – the connective tissue surrounding muscles and organs
Stretches For Back Pain
We searched for the best stretches for back pain and found these five easy stretches.
Stretching can be done almost anywhere. It’s a great way to break up sedentary work hours and prevent pain from setting in. Stretching can also help prevent injuries from exercise. Different types of stretches are good for warm ups and cool-down periods.
It’s important to have a well-rounded stretching practice.
According to research, an active warm up followed by static stretches 2-3 days per week is best. Check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine or if you have concerns about specific stretches.
1. Forward Bends
One of the simplest stretches for back pain is a seated forward bend. This stretches the lower back and hamstrings. It’s a stretch that is especially effective at relieving lower back pain and sciatica.
In yoga, this pose is known as Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend). With legs extended in front of you:
- Inhale while raising arms overhead.
- Lengthen your torso from the waist.
- Exhale, bend forward at the hips and reach your arms toward your feet. You can grasp calves, ankles, feet or big toes.
- Breathe evenly as you reach your chest, side waist and back toward your feet.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths and release.
Stretches that focus on spinal rotation are great for back pain caused by disc issues and muscle pain. Twists increase circulation and massage the muscles and organs.
People with back pain often avoid twisting the spine. The trick is to protect your lower back while not overdoing it. Extending your spine and engaging your core are essential to healthy twists.
To perform Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-To-Knee Pose), begin seated upright:
- Extend legs wide.
- Bend one knee and bring the heel into the inner thigh/groin.
- Slightly bend the opposite knee while keeping the leg extended.
- Inhale, lengthening your spine upward and grounding through the sitting bones. As you exhale, draw the lower belly in and lean toward the extended leg.
- Bring the back of your shoulder against the inside of your extended knee.
- Rest your forearm alongside the extended leg.
- Reach your opposite arm over your head, toward the extended foot. Grasp your big toe if possible.
- Breathe deeply as you ground through your bent leg and sitting bones. Feel the stretch through your torso and spine.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths and release. Repeat on the opposite side. (image from Pexels.com)
3. Cat and Cow Pose
Marjaryasana and Bitilasana (Cat and Cow Pose) are a nice warm up sequence for the spine. Taking your back through flexion and extension gives a gentle massage to your spine and internal organs. This series is easy to do. Begin in “tabletop” position with bent knees and palms on the ground:
- Hips and shoulders should align with knees and wrists.
- Begin by inhaling in a neutral spine position.
- As you exhale, tuck your chin towards your chest as you draw your spine into Cat Pose. The lower belly draws in as your tailbone tucks under.
- Inhale, bringing the spine back to neutral.
- On your next inhale, lift your chest, extending the spine into Cow Pose.
- Head and tailbone lift as the lower back flexes. Keep the low belly drawn in to protect your spine.
- Focus on extending your chest forward rather than bending in your low back. This will also help to keep you from overextending and compressing your spine.
- Exhale to return to neutral.
- When you are comfortable with both Cat and Cow poses, you can combine them for a gentle, easy flow.
Inhale into Cow Pose and exhale to Cat Pose for a nice spinal warm up.
4. Pigeon Pose
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or One-Legged Pigeon Pose is known as a “hip opener” in the yoga world. Because tight hips and lower back pain often go hand-in-hand, this is a great pose to address both. Sciatic pain sufferers may also find relief in this pose, since it stretches the piriformis muscle – often a culprit in sciatic pain. To perform, begin in “tabletop” position on hands and knees:
- Knees should be below the hips, hands a few inches in front of the shoulders.
- Bring your right knee towards your chest, and place it on the ground just in front of your right wrist. Your foot will point towards your left hip bone.
- Extend your left leg behind you, quadriceps facing the ground. Keep your hip and knee in alignment; don’t rotate your left hip outward or inward. Your hips should both be square to the front of your mat.
- As flexibility allows, move your left toes backward until you are resting on the right hipbone and your left quadriceps.
- Move your right foot forward until your shin is parallel the the front of your mat (if possible) and flex your right foot. Use props to support your right hip, if necessary.
- From here you can inhale and extend the arms and torso upward. Or, for Sleeping Pigeon, exhale and fold forward over the bent leg.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths and release. Repeat on the left side.
5. Child’s Pose
Known as a “resting” yoga pose, Balasana or Child’s Pose, is a great place to begin and end your stretches for back pain. Begin in tabletop position:
- With knees a little bit wider than your hips and shins resting on the ground, walk your hands forward while bringing your hips back to rest on your feet. Arms should extend straight in front of you while you rest your forehead on the ground or yoga mat.
- Breathe deeply. If your breathing feels pinched, move your knees out a bit wider to make room for your belly to move easily.
- Rest. Feel the effects of your stretching exercises as you let your breath relax your whole body.
- Remain here for 10 breaths or more.
Now, that you know how to relief your back pain, let’s talk about what causes back pain.
Causes of Back Pain
Disc degeneration and disc herniation are the most common causes of back pain and strain.
Discs are the spongy cartilaginous padding between vertebrae. They help absorb impact and stress on our spine. As we age, these discs can become thinner and more susceptible to tears and injury. When the jelly-like center of the disc bulges outward, it can put pressure on spinal nerves. This is what happens when a disc “slips” or “herniates.”
The pain can be excruciating. Herniated discs in the low back also commonly press on the sciatic nerve. A radiating, often electric, pain down the legs is the result.
Muscle weakness, disc tears and fractures caused by osteoporosis can lead to back pain, too. Arthritis, scoliosis and spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord) can also cause chronic pain.
In an increasingly sedentary society, back pain is often the result of sitting too much. Jobs that keep us at desks, in front of computers, and in our cars wreak havoc on our bodies. Improper posture creates chronic stress on joints and muscles.
Over time, this results in pain and dysfunction.
Getting the Most Out of Stretching
Stretching is a proven and effective strategy for back pain relief. Here are a few ways to get the most out of your stretching regimen:
Nourish your body.
Nutrient deficiencies can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and poor recovery after exercise. Make sure you get enough of what your body needs. Tranquility Labs’ CogniDHA fish oil provides high-quality DHA and EPA in a convenient, daily dose.
Lower your inflammation levels.
While inflammation is important for healing injuries and illness, it can damage muscle tissue when it becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation can lead to more aches and pain. Keep your inflammation levels under control with Tranquility Labs’ own Turmeric Curcumin 1000.
Boost your recovery.
Adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha can boost physical endurance and recovery. By supporting adrenal function, Ashwagandha helps your body combat the effects of chronic stress and fatigue. Tranquility Lab’s Ayurvedic Ashwagandha 1000 is the purest form on the market.
Stretch, Nourish, Recover
Chronic back pain can increase health care expenses and interfere with work and life. Tight muscles, disc issues, arthritis and other ailments make back pain the number one reason Americans seek medical care. But you can get relief and help prevent further discomfort!
Stretches for back pain are a great way to relieve tight muscles, joints and fascia. Following a regular stretching program will provide the most benefit. Make sure you also get proper nutrition and lower your inflammation to boost your recovery time and maximize benefits.
So keep on stretching, eating healthily, and take the best natural supplements. Soon enough, you’ll be waving goodbye to back pain and hello to feeling your best!
Please feel free to share in the comments below, how you naturally relieve your back pain. We’d love to know!