Making your low back happy: Stretches for your low back

We stress our low back tremendously during the day.  Few can escape the “joy” of rush hour traffic, studying, working in front of a computer, and many other activities that put our low back at risk.  When we sit for long periods of time, most of us tend to slump and arch our low back (lumbar area) continuously.  We tend to carry this position around when we become active during the day.

To get to the point, we tend to shorten our muscles which lose flexibility and elasticity.  When this happens our muscles cannot protect our joints properly.  They do not allow us to move fluidly. They start aching and, finally, they get injured.  Low back muscles are no exception.

We need to stretch and strengthen our muscles on a regular basis to avoid aches and injuries.  People usually claim they don’t have time to stretch during the day or at night when they arrive home.  If you have time to send an email, watch TV, pet your dog or call a friend, you will definitely have time for the stretches on this series.

In this series, I will be focusing on stretching muscles related to the low back.  These stretches are preventative as well as therapeutic.   When you stretch:

  • Keep your shoulder and neck muscles relaxed, especially when stretching your lower body.
  • Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds
  • Breath into the stretch and try to relax your muscles even more every time you exhale.
  • If any of these stretches causes pain, discontinue and talk to a health care professional or a personal trainer to make sure you are performing them correctly.

Double Knee-to-Chest Stretch

  • Lie down on your back and bring your knees to your chest.
  • Put your arms around your knees and bring them closer your chest.
  • As you do this, concentrate on flattening your back on the floor (you will have to tighten your abs to do this).  If you are recovering from a low back injury, ease into the contraction.  Stop if this step causes pain.

Alternate Stretch

So you claim you have no time to stretch…  How about this one, you can perform it at the office or while watching TV.  Just lean forward so that your chest approaches and rests on your knees.  Keep your knees together especially if you have very flexible hips.  Keeping your knees together fixes your pelvis somewhat so that the stretch hits the lumbar (low back) area.

Another stretch that hits the low back, the glutes and the hamstrings is the Single Leg Knee-to-Chest stretch. From the double knee-to-chest stretch position,

  • Straighten your left leg and keep holding your right leg close to your chest.
  • After a few seconds,  exert a bit of pressure towards the left shoulder to feel a stronger stretch around the hip area.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Notice if the opposite knee (straight leg) rises from the floor when you hold your  knee to your chest.  If it does, that means your hip flexors are tight.  I will show stretches for these muscles on a future post.
  • This is a good stretch if you are injured with low back pain and cannot perform the first stretch on this post.

Piriformis Stretch

I won’t go into the exact location of this muscle.  Suffice it to say that it is in the butt area. When tight,  it can wreak havoc on your low back and might cause pain down your leg.

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent.
  • Cross your left leg on the right leg (put your left ankle on the right knee).  Now, slide both hands around your right thigh (as if you wanted to choke the thigh).  Pull your right knee towards you.  You should feel a stretch on the left buttock.
  • If it is too hard to relax you shoulders while holding the stretch you can use a wall for leverage.  Just place your left foot on the wall and place your left ankle on your left knee.  Slide your back towards the wall so that your right knee approaches your chest as shown on the left (sides are inverted on the drawing).
  • Repeat on the other side.

Alternate piriformis stretch

You can always stretch the piriformis muscle by sitting on a firm chair and crossing your leg as it is depicted on the left.  Without bending at the waist and keeping your torso straight, bend at the hips.  You may put a little bit of over pressure on the knee to intensify the stretch.  You should feel the stretch in your butt.

So there you have them, the first few stretches that will make a huge difference in the longevity of your low back!

Don’t miss the next post! I will add a few more stretches that will definitely help you keep your back in top shape.

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About nuchiro

I graduated from National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, IL in 2005 with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. I have also been a certified personal trainer since 1999. I believe that Total Wellness, of which physical fitness is only a part, can be achieved relatively easily when people focus on attaining a harmonious balance in the different aspects of their lives. For an appointment, feel free to contact me at dr.veaz@nuchiro.com .
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