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8 great stretches for people with chronic back pain

Low back pain is the most commonly reported type of pain and a leading cause of disability in America. Studies show that an estimated 80% of adults will suffer from low back pain in their lifetime. Contributing factors can come from simply aging, as changes to the spine occur as your body is always changing. Your spine is designed to distribute your body weight load. An excess of weight may lead to structural changes and damage as well. Poor posture is a big contributor to back pain and believe it or not having an active lifestyle can cause lower back pain just as much as a sedentary lifestyle! Repetitive lifting, bending and twisting, and standing for long periods of time will hinder that lower back just as much lounging around with your best friend, the couch. Whether your back pain is hereditary, environmental or even caused by hormones, here are 8 stretches you can incorporate into your daily routine to ease and even eliminate the discomfort.

Hamstring Stretch

Although a standing stretch is the most common, it also places more stress on your lower back. Instead, use a seated or wall stretch. A seated stretch begins with you seated in a firm chair. Extend one leg and reach down slowly to touch your toe. Change legs and stretch the other side. A wall stretch is done lying on your back with your buttocks up against a wall or high-back chair. Place the foot against the wall or chair and make the knee as straight as you can. As you progress you'll be able to get closer to your toes in the seated position or your knee straighter while on the floor. It is important to stretch gradually and not push so hard you strain the muscle.

Gluteal Stretch

Your gluteal muscles are interconnected with your lower back. Stretch and relax these muscles by lying on your back with both knees bent and your lower back flattened to the floor. Draw one knee to your chest, while you keep the other foot on the floor. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat with your other leg. Stretch both legs twice, once daily.

Piriformis Stretch

The piriformis muscle is small and located deep in your buttocks. When it spasms it can cause pain your buttocks and irritate the sciatic nerve, triggering pain down your leg. The muscle stabilizes the hip joint, lifting and rotating the thigh away from the body. It is involved in almost every movement of your legs and hips. Lie on your back with both feet flat to the floor and knees bent. Place your right ankle on your left knee. Grab your left thigh and pull the leg toward your chest. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Release and repeat on the other side.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Your hip flexors are a group of muscles that connect your pelvis, leg and abdomen. These are some of the most powerful muscles in your body, responsible for flexing your hip and raising your leg. Sitting for long periods of time and competitive swimming, are two activities causing the flexor muscles to tighten and affect your lower back. A kneeling hip flexor stretch starts with you on your knees on the floor. Holding on to a chair or other solid object, place one leg behind you and lean in slightly to the chair. The glute bridge stretch does more than stretch your hip flexors, it also works your gluteal muscles and abs. Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor hip-width apart, flatten your back to the floor and exhale while raising your hips off the floor. Tighten your glutes when you get to the top. Inhale and return to the starting position.

Quadriceps Stretch

If you have tight quadriceps, they will affect the tilt of your pelvis and therefore your lower back. Common stretches require you to bend your knee until your heel touches your buttocks. However, this stretch places increased stress on your knee joint. Instead, you can stretch your quadriceps without bending your knee. Standing next to a chair, bed or table, extend your right leg behind you. Hold on to a chair for stability and prevent falling. Keeping your body upright, align your left hip over your left heel maintaining left hip and foot in a forward position. Tighten your glutes and imagine your right leg extending through your right hip. You should feel light tension in both your hip and quads. Repeat on the other leg.

Lower Back Stretch

The goal is to stretch and relax your lower back muscles without adding stress or pressure to the area. Lie on your back with your buttocks as close to a wall as possible. Raise your legs straight up the wall and scoot in closer to the wall. Press your lower back into the floor and relax.


Strong abdominal and back muscles will help protect your lower back and improve your ability to stand and sit with correct posture. Planks will strengthen your shoulders, abs, back, glutes and the large muscles in your legs. Lie on your stomach. Rise up on your elbows, holding your elbows directly below your shoulders. Pull your body up on your toes and hold a position similar to doing a push-up, except you are on your elbows. Work up to holding for 3 minutes.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Keeping your hips, pelvis, rib cage and core muscles in alignment helps you to use your body correctly and reduce the potential for further back pain. Diaphragmatic breathing techniques are a good way to stabilize your back and naturally add traction to your spine. Lie on your back with your heels on a chair. Align your position so there is a 90-degree angle at your hips and your knees. This might require you to experiment with different chairs to find one at the right height for you. Place a pillow between your legs.

Without using your lower back, activate your glutes and your abdominal muscles to raise your buttocks off the floor just a few inches. In this bridge position, inhale deeply through your nose, feeling your lower ribs rotate outward to fill your lungs. Exhale completely using your core muscles to internally rotate your ribs. Inhale for a count of five, exhale for a count of seven and pause for a count of three. Do this five times, maintaining the bridge position, then rest. Repeat one more time.

Foam Rolling Hamstrings and Quadriceps

Foam rolling your hamstrings and quadriceps muscles helps the muscles to relax, give you a deep tissue massage and speed healing. These muscles contribute to your lower back pain. Roll over a foam roller just one to three times each day for the hamstrings and quadriceps, after doing your strengthening and stretching exercises.

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