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Stretching to Relieve Back Pain

Toni Ann DiSantis

Almost everyone can benefit from stretching the muscles in the back and around the spine. Stretching is very important to help prevent or correct any imbalances throughout the musculoskeletal system. Many of us sit for long periods of time throughout the work day, leading to stiffness and decreased flexibility. Inactivity and decreased flexibility may cause back pain, something stretching can easily relieve.

Remember, a stretch should not induce painful symptoms. Instead, a stretch should feel relieving to the lower back.

Butterfly Stretches

This stretch is an easy way to give your back some immediate back pain help. To do the butterfly stretch all that you need is a little bit of room to stand up and stretch. First place your hands, palms down, on your shoulders. Keep your hands in place, without moving, as you bring your elbows together in front of you. The closer your elbows come to each other the tighter your back will feel. Once you feel a strong stretch you should hold it for at least five seconds. Repeat this move 9 or 10 times for maximum back pain therapy.

Hamstring Stretches

Simply lie on your back with one knee bent. Next you will loop a bit of towel under the ball of your other foot. Slowly straighten your knee and pull back on the towel. You’ll feel a tightening around the back of your leg. Hold this position for about 30 seconds. Perform this move on both legs 2 to 4 times. It is important to note that you do not push yourself too far. A nice stretch will feel tight, but if you are going beyond your limits you will begin to feel pain.

Arm Raise ‘N Reach

For this maneuver all you need is a bit of floor and room to stretch out.  Simply get down on your hands and knees with your neck level and parallel to the floor. With your body in as straight a line as possible begins to raise your arm out in front of you. Stretch your arm out while maintaining your form and balance. Hold the stretch, as far as you can reach, for five seconds. Do each arm at least 10 times. This stretch will push you and attack your core while offering that vital back pain relief. Don’t be afraid to take breaks on this one.

Knee to Chest

This stretch is comprised of one simple movement that is accomplished by lying flat. Now that you are on the ground, laying flat and straight, extend your arms out to either side of you with your palms down flat. Now bend one knee for support, now bend your other knee and slowly bring it to your chest while keeping the rest of your extremities flat. Once you get it as far as you can, hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds. Slowly drop your knee and repeat it the maneuver with your other leg. Do the stretch 4 times per leg.

Upward Bridge Stretch

To perform the upward bridge stretch you need to lie flat on your back with your knees bent before you. Instead of supporting yourself with flat feet you will want to rest only on your heels. With your heels digging into the floor you will want to push down on them while squeezing your buttocks. While you do this lift your entire core, hips and shoulders, upward in order to form a straight line with your body. Once you perform this move you will want to hold it for five or six seconds. After that stretch you will want to slowly lower yourself back down to the floor. Give yourself ample amount of time to rest before repeating the move upwards of a dozen times. Avoid arching too high and, as always, be wary of pushing your back too far.


As with beginning any new exercise, start off slowly with a very gentle stretch. Stop if you have any increase in lower back pain or sciatic pain down your leg. If unsure whether you should perform these stretches, consult your doctor or physical therapist.