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Four simple stretches for lower back pain relief

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Whether you spend all day on your feet or seated at a desk, it’s not uncommon to experience lower back pain as a result of how your unique kinetic chain moves and how your feet and the rest of your body absorb pressure. While integrating arch support is an easy way to proactively prevent and treat the misalignment that leads to pain, these four stretches can also help undo tightness and discomfort in your lower back.

Setting aside five minutes or so a few times a week to cycle through these gentle movements can relieve some of the spinal and muscular tension that builds up from long stretches of walking, standing, or sitting in the same position. Big caveat: if your pain worsens while doing any of these stretches, please stop and make time to speak with your doctor instead!

 

Cat and cow

A yoga flow favorite, this easy stretch promotes flexibility and space as you unfurl the spine—and it’s also just kind of fun to do.

Start by kneeling on all fours in a neutral position. Your hands will be under your shoulders and your knees should line up below your hips. Slowly arch your spine as you exhale, looking up and sticking your butt up—just go easy and don’t strain or overextend. On your inhale, slowly round your back, forming a shape like a scared cat. Move gently back and forth between the two positions, breathing evenly as you go, for about one minute.


Seated spinal twist

This restorative stretch is great for encouraging mobility up and down the entire spine and creating more space in the back. In general, twists are relaxing and energizing, so this is a great option if you need a little break in your day.

Sit up straight on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. Bend your right leg so that your foot is on the floor, and then cross your right leg over your left, setting your right foot next to your left thigh. Tuck your left leg in so that your left foot is just outside your right hip. If that’s uncomfortable, you can keep your left leg extended.

Extend your arms up and twist your torso to the right, placing your left elbow outside your right knee and your right hand on the floor behind you. As you inhale, lengthen your spine upward, and gently twist more to the right as you exhale (don’t force it! This shouldn’t be uncomfortable). Hold for about a minute as you continue to inhale and exhale. When you’re ready, unwind and repeat the same motions on the other side, starting with bending your left leg.

 

Reclined twist

Like a seated twist, this simple stretch lengthens and realigns the spine, releasing tension in the lower back especially. It’s often compared to gracefully “wringing out” the body so you can start fresh.

Start by lying on your back and extending both arms out to form a T-shape. Bring your knees toward your chest so that your shins are parallel to the floor—your knees should be over your hips. Gently lower your knees to one side. There’s no need for your knees to touch the ground; it’s more important that your shoulders and neck stay flat. If it feels comfortable, you can turn your head to look in the opposite direction of your knees. Hold for about a minute, taking slow, deep breaths, and then switch directions, moving your knees and your gaze to the opposite side. It might also feel good to squeeze your knees into your chest when you’re done.


Child’s pose

Another yoga go-to, this stretch is a favorite for relieving pain and tightness all along the spine, shoulders, hips, and neck. It’s especially good for loosening up tight lower back muscles and works wonders for fighting stress and fatigue too.

Come to hands and knees and then gently separate your knees a little wider than your hips keeping your big toes touched. Sink your hips back to rest on your heels, while your hands stay extended. Walk your hands a little more out in front of you and let your belly sink closer to the ground. With your forehead on the floor or resting on a prop, take several slow, deep breaths, focusing on lengthening your spine. Hold for a minute, or more if you’re really feeling it.