There’s nothing more satisfying than finding that ahhh-inducing stretch when you have a tight and achy back—and nothing more maddening than not being able to hit that spot.
Lower back pain is near-universal—in fact, about 80 percent of people experience it at one point or another, according to the American Chiropractic Association. “Where the spine meets the pelvis is kind of a crash site,” says Patrick Donovan, DPT, owner of Heather Lane Physical Therapy in Denver, Colorado.
It’s little wonder that this area is a pain point for so many seeing as how the daily habits that commonly cause lower back issues are the ones you likely do often: spending hours hunched over a computer, phone, or steering wheel, which all cause the muscles in the front of your pelvic area to shorten and tighten, too.
Whеn thе hiр flexor muѕсlеѕ аrе соntrасtеd in a seated роѕitiоn, thоѕе muѕсlе fibers start tо ѕhоrtеn, рulling thе реlviѕ fоrwаrd аnd рuѕhing thе lower back out оf аlignmеnt. Trаnѕlаtiоn: weaker—and achier—back muѕсlеѕ.
You’re probably getting the picture that the more time you spend sitting, the more likely you are to experience lower back pain, but it’s not like you can just stop working a desk job or driving your car. Being mindful of your posture and standing up regularly can help you prevent lower back…but what if you’re already hurting? Stretches can definitely help.
A quick disclaimer: If you’re experiencing extreme pain or pain that radiates down your leg, talk to a doctor or physical therapist to make sure there’s nothing serious going on—and do that before trying out the stretches below, says Donovan.
If it’s just everyday aches and pains, here are the 7 best lower back stretches to do at home, asap.
1 Child’s Pose
How to: Start in a kneeling position, with shins flat on the ground, butt on heels, knees slightly wider than torso, and hands in lap. Walk arms forward to straight on floor, lower stomach down on to thighs, and rest forehead on floor. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
2 Sphinx Pose
How to: Start by lying on stomach with legs extended, elbows bent, upper arms close to ribs, and hands planted on either side of rib cage. Lift chest and walk hands forward so forearms rest on floor parallel to each other, with elbows beneath shoulders. Press forearms and hands into the floor and tuck tailbone in to engage lower abdominals and support spine. Lengthen from tailbone through crown of head.
Hold for at least 30 seconds.
3 Thread the Needle
How to: Start on all fours. Slide right hand along floor behind left wrist until shoulder is on floor. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Reverse movement and lift right arm into air, twisting to gaze up. Repeat on the other side.
4 Low Lunge Twist
How to: Start in a low lunge with left foot forward between hands and right leg extended straight back. Draw left hand straight up overhead toward ceiling and rotate torso from waist to gaze up at it. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then return to low lunge and repeat on the other side.
How to: Start on hands and knees with elbows and wrists below shoulders, knees below hips, and toes untucked. On the inhale, drop stomach and arch back to lift tailbone and chest towards the ceiling. Look up. On the exhale, pull navel to spine, and tuck chin and pelvis towards navel to round the spine. (Initiate the movement generate from tailbone and allow spine, neck, and head to follow.) Repeat for at least 30 seconds.
6 Spinal Twist
How to: Start lying on left side with legs bent and both arms straight, right one resting on top of left. Keep left arm on the floor and knees pointed toward left side, then open right arm across body in line with shoulder, bringing it to rest on the floor on right side of mat. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
7 Seated Spinal Twist
How to: Start seated with legs crossed. Plant left foot outside of right thigh, lifting knee as needed. Extend arms up overhead and twist torso to the left, placing right elbow against the outside of left knee and left hand on the floor behind (but close to) back. On the inhale, lengthen spine. On the exhale, gently twist lower back, middle back, and then upper back to the left. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Then, repeat on the other side.