11 Back Stretches For Lower Back Pain

This blog post contains the 11 best Back Stretches for lower back pain.

These stretches are designed to:

a) Reclaim the normal movements in your lumbar spine.

b) Reduce the over-sensitivity of the lower back structures.

c) Minimize stiffness.


Back stretches for Lower back Pain

The following back stretches for lower back pain are designed to be gentle and completely pain-free.

(Note: – It is very likely that you will need to perform other exercises to address your lower back pain. These general back stretches serve as a good place to start.)


Read this first: If you experience an increase in any of your symptoms:

  • Change your technique.
  • Reduce the amount of movement being performed.
  • Relax. Don’t forget to breathe.
  • If all else fails: Stop the exercise.

(I have arranged the stretches in order of difficulty – easiest to hardest.)

1. Knees Side-To-Side

knees side to side back stretch for lower back pain

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your back.
  • Keep your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Gently rock your knees from side to side.
  • Only allow the knees to drop as far as it is comfortable.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

2. Pelvic tilts

pelvic tilt

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your back.
  • Keep your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Gently tilt your pelvis forwards.
  • Arch your lower back.
  • As you perform this, aim to feel a gentle contraction in the lower back muscles.
  • Relax to starting position.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

3. knee to chest (Single Leg)

single knee to chest exercise

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your back.
  • Keep your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Make sure that the legs are completely relaxed throughout this stretch.
  • Using your hands, pull one knee towards your chest.
  • Only pull the knee as far as you can comfortably tolerate.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Alternate legs.
  • Perform 10 repetitions on each side.

4. Knee to Chest (Both legs)

knee to chest back stretch

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your back.
  • Keep your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Aim to keep both legs completely relaxed throughout the movement
  • Using your hands, hold onto both knees and pull them towards your chest.
  • Aim to feel a gentle stretch in the lower back.
  • Gently rock your knees to your chest for 30 repetitions.

5. Prone extension

prone extension back stretch for lower back pain

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your stomach.
  • Place your forearms (or hands) onto the floor.
  • Using the strength of your arms only, gently arch your lower back backwards.
  • Make sure that you only arch the lower back as far you can comfortably tolerate.
  • Aim to feel gentle tension across your lower back.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds.
  • Perform 10 repetitions.

6. Standing Side Stretch

standing back stretch for lower back pain

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing, place your left hand on left hip.
  • Push your hip towards the right.
  • Whilst reaching over to the left with your right hand, tilt your torso to the left.
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the right side.
  • Repeat on other side.

See also: 12 stretches to loosen the side your lower back.

7. Sitting Forward Fold

back stretches for lower back pain

Instructions:

  • Sit down on the edge of a chair.
  • Have your knees parted to either side.
  • Slowly lower your torso between your legs.
  • Keep the torso completely relaxed.
  • Aim to feel a stretch sensation in your lower back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

8. Child’s Pose

childs pose back stretch

Instructions:

  • Kneel on the floor.
  • Reach as far away as possible and place both palms on the floor in front of you.
  • Move your buttocks backwards until they are in contact with the back of your heels.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the lower back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

9. Cat/Camel stretch

cat camel back stretch

Instructions:

  • Assume the 4 point kneel position.
  • Make sure that your hands are underneath the shoulders and the knees underneath the hips.
  • Transition between the following positions:
    1. Tilt your pelvis forwards as you arch your lower back.
    2. Tilt your pelvis backwards as you round your lower back.
  • Aim to feel a contraction and stretch in the lower back respectively.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

10. Lower back Decompression

lower back decompression stretch for back pain

Instructions:

  • Lie facing downwards on top of a large exercise ball.
  • Position your body so that your lower back is in line with the middle of the ball.
  • You can use your arms to keep yourself balanced.
  • Completely relax your legs and allow them to dangle. Let the weight of your legs pull on the lower back.
  • Allow the toes to gently rest on the floor.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the lower back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

For more stretches like this: 12 ways to Decompress your Lower Back

11. Foam Roll stretch

back stretch with foam roller

Instructions:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Lift your bottom off the floor and place a block (or rolled up towel) under your sacrum.
    • (Make sure that the block is not directly underneath your lower back!)
  • Straighten your legs so that the feet are in contact with the floor.
  • You should feel a comfortable pulling sensation in your lower back.
  • Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  • Lift your bottom upwards and remove the block from underneath you.
  • Note: Do not stay in this position for too long as you may experience difficulty getting up.

Common questions

1. What causes lower back pain?

There are a multiple causes for lower back pain.

If you were to ask me what I consider to be one of the most common causes that I see, it would be: Too much sitting!

Prolonged sitting (…especially with bad posture) places a high amount of stress on the structures in your back.

This can eventually lead to stiffness, weakness and pain.

2. Should I stretch a sore lower back?

My immediate response: Yes!

… As long as there is absolutely no pain or discomfort whilst doing the stretches.

Note: There are a few circumstances (such as Disc Bulges, Nerve Impingement, Arthritis etc.) where it may be advisable to consult a health practitioner prior to commencing any stretches to the lower back.

4. How many times a day should you stretch for Lower Back pain?

It is recommended that you perform the appropriate back stretches for lower back pain 2-3/day.

(Note: The frequency can be changed to meet your individual needs.)

5. Do I need to do all 11 of the back stretches?

No.

Keep in mind- Not all stretches will be suitable for you.

It is important to be aware of how your body responds whilst performing each stretch.

Continue with the stretches that give you the most relief.


Conclusion:

  • Back stretches can help address your lower back pain.
  • The main aim is to restore normal movements, desensitize the lower back and address tightness.
  • Not ALL exercises will be appropriate for you. Stick with the stretches that reduce your pain.
  • Perform the stretches 2-3/day.

What to do next

1. Any questions?… (Leave me a comment down below.)

2. Come join me:

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3. Start doing the exercises!


The content presented on this blog post is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.. Use of the content is at your sole risk. For more information: Medical disclaimer.

31 thoughts on “11 Back Stretches For Lower Back Pain”

  1. Hi, Mark.
    I have a question: do you know what muscles in my lower back might be causing my pain?

    Every day, I wake up with lower back pain in the area slightly above my glutes. I’ve done your exercises and they help but I’m not sure what these muscles are called. Specifically, the prone extension exercise seems to target these muscles very well since I feel better after doing them but I don’t know what the muscles are.

    Reply
  2. Hi Mark I used your thoracic pain video and it helped a lot but now I have L5/s1 herniation and stenosis causing me much difficulty. I stomped my foot and it’s been aching for weeks and affecting my quality of life severely . I’m hoping you can give me some advice and pointers on what to do. Thanks for the help

    Reply
    • Hey Steven,

      You stomped your foot and it caused a L5/S1 disc herniation? That sucks!

      If you are in a lot of pain, you will need to control the inflammation first.

      I would suggest a strong course of anti-inflammatory medications for 2 weeks (but you will need to talk to your doctor regarding this)

      In the meanwhile, keep the lower back as mobile and active as possible.

      The exercises/stretches mentioned here are a great place to start. Do not move into pain.

      Once everything has calmed down, you will want to find out exactly what has predisposed you to getting this lower back issue.

      I would check your pelvis posture and go from there.

      Mark

      Reply
      • Hi Mark thanks for the reply. I already had a herniation there plus stenosis and some arthritis. The stomp just increased my pain. It’s been almost two weeks and hasn’t gone away. Usually it would be gone by now.

  3. No bones sticking out, I sent you a picture on Facebook. It’s more like the spine was divided into two parts, when bending over the lower part (at a certain angle) just stops moving whilst the other half continues – thus making the back look like an L rather than a rounded C – pointy angle and not rounded like others

    Reply
  4. Hi Mark!

    I have this weird problem with my back that nobody seems to have the answer for.

    When I bend over to reach my toes, my lower back bends in half creating this pointy angle, it doesn’t get rounded like others. I would say I’m pretty flexible can easily put my head into my knees with straight legs.

    It’s kinda hard to explain, I have photos as well. I know many have this same problem after posting in different forums about it.

    Hope to hear from u and thanks in advance! ❤️

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      If you can place your head between your knees whilst standing, I’d say you are very flexible in the hamstrings.

      I am not too sure what you mean by a pointy angle. Do you mean the bone sticks out more than the others?

      If so – you may just have a bony prominence likely at L4 or L5 spinous process.

      Mark

      Reply
  5. Hello Mark , First i really appreciate the time you dedicate to help people via your blog and would like to thank you for that. I contact you because i think i suffer pelvic floor dysfunction ( tight )due to misalignment of my body. PFD lead me recently to lot of problem like erectile dysfunction , no libido and penile numbness. I also suffer from back pain and i think it correlate with all those symptoms. I spend a lot of time searching for a cure on the internet and find some post talking about people suffering the same condition. I also take note that all we have in commun was a very bad lifestyle , includind long hour of sitting. At this point i realise it was maybe a postural problem. Im really tall (6.4) and my muscles seem tight. Could you recommend me a serie of exercise/scretch to do for my particular case , i would really appreciate it. Finding a good physio in cambodia is really limited and difficult.

    Thanks again.

    Reply
  6. Hi Mark
    I have a disc bulge in L5S1 so I am doing your back pain stretches. I also have pain in pelvis and Hips as well as severe tingling and numbness when I sit down. So much so that I cannot sit for longer than couple of mins as becomes intolerable. I have had mri which confirmed the disc bulge. I am waiting for a hospital appt which may take several weeks so doing your stretches in the meantime. The most distressing thing is the fact I cannot sit, it seems whenever my buttocks are compressed the severe tingling, pins and needles start. It knocks me sick.
    I can lie flat with legs raised up and and walk ok although legs feel weak since the tingling sensation started a couple of weeks ago. Just wondered if you had come across this sitting problem before and if there is any other exercise you can recommend for me?

    Reply
    • Hi Shirls,

      It sounds like your nerve that comes from the L5/S1 is quite irritated (… perhaps with increased inflammation making everything super sensitive).

      Here are some things that you can try (but please be careful.. if in doubt, ask your doctor)

      1. Take anti-inflammatory medication (ask doctor)
      2. Continue with pain-free exercises. The ones on this page are fine. Perhaps stay away from the last 2 as they are a bit more advanced.
      3. Keep walking/moving as much as you can COMFORTABLY handle. You need to keep your muscles moving.
      4. Try hydrotherapy (walking in water)
      5. Avoid excessive lower back bending for now. Posterior disc bulges at the L5/S1 tend to make the back more sensitive in the flexed position.
      6. If the back remains inflamed, you may benefit from a cortisone injection.

      Mark

      Reply
  7. Hi Mark – excellent post. Please keep them coming.

    What do you think of the methods recommended by Dr Stuart McGill (‘Back Mechanic’ https://www.backfitpro.com). He seems pretty popular. His central idea seems to be stabilization of the spine to treat back issues. However in his book he specifically says don’t do stretches like knees to chest, lumbar rolls etc.

    What do you think of this type of advice around stretching. And what is your opinion of his ideas generally?

    Reply
    • Hey David,

      In my opinion, stabilisation and movement of the spine are BOTH equally as important as each other.

      Although stretching (such as knee to chest, lumbar rolls) by itself is unlikely to gain long lasting improvements, it still has its place for sure. There should always be some sort of strengthening/control component that follows a stretch program.

      Mark

      Reply
  8. Hi Mark
    Thank you for a terrific website! Can you recommend any stretches for SI joint pain beside the usual knee to chest and piriformis figure 4 stretch, which I’m finding useless the minute I sit down (or begin to squat) again? Tried some DonTigny bent over elbow to opposite ankle, not helping.
    Thank you,
    In pain,
    Dave

    Reply
  9. This is great! I already do some of these exercises but there are some new ones on here! I have a bulging disc and I do a lot of yoga to help with pain and build strength in the back and abs. IS there any movements you would recommend NOT doing for a bulging disc (l4/l5). I have been taking it super easy and trying to cut back on any twisting motions and trying not to take too many deep forward bending stretches.

    Reply
    • Hi Jayne,

      If you have a disc bulge, there are some positions that you should definitely minimise your exposure to.

      … But it all depends on exactly where the bulge is, and which part of is bulging out.

      If you are like most people, you probably have a posterior disc bulge at L4/5 and/or L5/S1. For you – I would recommend avoiding any Lumbar flexion exercises where you are standing. (eg. touching your toes whilst standing).

      However… if you have the core strength, flexibility and have been practising this move for a long time now with nil symptoms, then you can continue to do so.

      If in doubt, let pain be your guide. Every exercise should be pain-free.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  10. i have quite an excessive anterior tilt with left sciatic pain, i also have a strained left facet joint. but now my mid to upper back is cramping up and hurting whenever im sitting.
    i am on workcover and want to get better, please guide me!

    Reply
    • Hi Jesse,

      I would try to address your left sciatic nerve pain before anything.

      Something like this exercise is a great place to start:

      In terms of your anterior pelvic tilt, have a look at this post: How to fix an Anterior Pelvic Tilt

      If sitting for prolonged periods of time definitely aggravates your pain, try to avoid sitting if you can. If you can’t avoid it, try to get up and walk around every 20-30 minutes.

      If you are on WorkCover, you should be seeing a physiotherapist. Have they prescribed any exercises for you?

      Looking forward to your response.

      Mark

      Reply
  11. I have a right anterior tilt (with sciatic pain) and a left posterior tilt (no sciatic pain). I’ve done a lot of these stretches given to me by my therapist but I still have this. Do you have any suggestions as to why I have this deviation in my lumbar spine and any recommended exercises to help. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Linda,

      Usually if you have a rotated/tilt pelvis, it is likely due to a muscular imbalance. This can involve many muscles, and is usually dependent on your sitting /standing posture.

      If there is sciatic pain, I would try to calm down the nerve issue first before do anything else.

      1. Try Sciatic Nerve stretch/floss:

      2. Open up the Right side of your spine to free up the nerve. Only bend to the Left hand side.

      Make sure there is no pain, or increase in any symptoms. There should just be a stretch sensation to the right side.

      Let me know if that makes sense.

      Mark

      Reply
      • Thank you. I have done something similar to the 1st video by lying on my back with my leg lifted in the air and flexing the foot in that position but it seems to aggravate the nerve. Nothing is more painful than nerve pain! Thanks again.

  12. I did not realize that there were so many stretches to help with back pain. I think that it is important to be able to do these stretches. I have had back pain most of my life and I think that it is important to relieve back pain.

    Reply
  13. I did not realize that back stretches could be so powerful in relieving back pain. I go to a chiropractor and get my back adjusted frequently, but I have never been sent home with stretches to do. I will try some of these stretches demonstrated in the videos.

    Reply
  14. Great post! One of our team members have pulled their back muscle before and some of the exercises that you recommended were some of the ones that they incorporated into their daily exercise to strengthen those muscles again. It’s great that you provide a large variety of exercises that we can do so we choose which ones are most relevant to us. Thanks for sharing.
    J.T

    Reply

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