8 Exercises and Stretches for Immediate Low Back Pain Relief

group of women doing a forward bend rag doll pose in yoga studio

As a yoga teacher, one of the most common questions I receive from students and friends is what I would recommend for low back pain. It turns out that they are not alone in this quest for relief. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time, and in some cases, it can be debilitating.


Below we will explore some of the potential causes of low back pain and a sequence of exercises and stretches to give you immediate relief from this pain.


What’s causing my low back pain?

The best way to eliminate lower back pain is to fix the root cause and maintain muscle balance. Exercises and stretches to help you get relief are great, but unless you know the reason behind the pain, it can be cyclical.


With that said, if you’ve been dealing with low back pain, whether acute or chronic, then the first and most important step on the road to healing is to consult with your chiropractor to rule out any serious causes. Your chiropractor will be able to guide you in the proper stretches and exercises needed for each individual body type.


man with low back pain

There are a multitude of reasons for low back pain, some more serious than others. Women often experience it after childbirth. Athletes run into problems after years of training. Some people experience it after simply picking up something heavy.


It makes sense when you think about how complicated and intricate the bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles in your back are. You can sprain ligaments, strain muscles, rupture disks, and irritate joints, all of which can lead to back pain. In addition, arthritis, poor posture, obesity, and psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain.


Daily habits that could be making your low back pain worse

One commonality to the pain is poor daily habits that can ultimately lead to pain in the back. As you work to heal your back, be mindful of some of these common triggers. Making some simple corrections can make a huge difference in how you feel:

  • Sitting for longer periods of time with no lumbar support
  • Slouching and texting which creates the rounded-shoulder-forward-head posture
  • Flexion at the spine whenever you sit (rounding of the lower back)
  • Bending at the spine instead of practicing the hip hinge (especially when lifting heavy objects)


Movement can help you heal faster and move better

Many people who suffer from back pain are afraid to exercise or move for fear of further injuring themselves. As I stated above, you should always consult first with a chiropractor, but often not moving is not an option. Finding low-impact ways to strengthen your muscles and spine will ultimately lead to your healing versus being sedentary. Movement is often the medicine that is so desperately needed.


Below are 8 low-impact and simple stretches to help provide you with relief from your low back pain. These are a combination of yoga postures and core-strengthening exercises that target specific parts of the body that contribute to the back.


As you move through these stretches, it is important not to force anything. Start slow and build. Micro-movements can go a long way to giving you the strength you need to heal. Be patient with yourself on your road to recovery.


#1: Rag Doll Forward Fold

woman doing a forward bend pose yoga

How to Do it:

  1. Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart.
  2. Fold forward, keeping a slight bend in your knees.
  3. Cross your arms and grab onto your opposite elbows.
  4. Allow your head to hang freely. Stay here for 5 deep breaths.


Benefits for low back pain:

Rag doll pose is a gentler variation of a standing forward bend, or Uttansana, in Sanksrit. Often practiced as part of the warm-up in a yoga practice or in the middle of practice as an active recovery pose, this posture provides release, relief, and relaxation in the body. Let gravity help loosen up your spine with this easy inversion.



#2: Wall Sits

woman doing a wall sit for low back pain relief

How to do it:

  1. For a wall sit, stand about a foot away from a wall with your back against the wall.
  2. Make sure your legs are at shoulder’s distance, and your feet are out. Now, slide down the wall slowly and steadily to reach the squat position.
  3. Hold the position for about 20 seconds and come back up.


Benefits for low back pain:

The purpose of this exercise is not to increase muscle mass, but to increase muscular endurance (which is one of the main things that people suffering from low back pain need to work on). Also, it helps you enhance the endurance of your glutes, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, and adductor muscles. And of course, it will help you relieve your back pain.



#3: Standing Knee Raise

woman doing knee raise exercise to build strength for low back pain relief

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall in front of a chair if you need to hold on for extra support.
  2. Flex hip, and bring your knee up as far as possible. Lower back down to the ground, and repeat. Focus on slow and intentional movement for more effectiveness and remember to breathe.
  3. Do 3 sets of 15 knee raises on each leg.


Benefits for low back pain:

As a core-building exercise, knee raises promote better alignment and posture, prevent or reduce low-back pain, improve your balance, and help with control, coordination and agility.



#4: Runners Lunge

runners lunge for low back pain relief

How to do it:

  1. Start on your hands and knees, and lunge forward with your right leg so your right foot and left knee are contacting the ground.
  2. Keeping your back straight and pelvis tucked, lunge forward until you feel a stretch in your left hip. You can use a wall or chair for support if necessary.
  3. Hold this stretch for 15 seconds, and then repeat 3 times. Repeat on the other leg.


Benefits for low back pain:

When your psoas becomes tight you will likely experience low back pain. Not many people have heard of the psoas (“So-as”) muscles, yet problems with these muscles can manifest as hip, groin, and low back pain. Fortunately, with this powerful psoas-releasing stretch, you can help stabilize the spine to help relieve these issues and give your low back immediate relief.



#5: Bird Dog Extensions

bird dog pose for low back pain relief

How to do it:

  1. Start in all fours.
  2. Lift your right arm in front of you as you simultaneously lift your left leg behind you.
  3. Hold the top position for a full exhale, then inhale as you lower.
  4. Switch sides, then continue alternating for a total of 3 times per side.


Benefits for low back pain:

This lower back strengthener is gentle yet effective. Your main focus should be to maintain balance and stability while moving with steady precision and flexing your back muscles.



#6: Lying Figure 4 Stretch

eye of the needle for low back pain relief

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back and place both feet flat on the floor.
  2. Cross your right ankle over your left knee to create a number 4 shape.
  3. Loop your hands around your left thigh and gently pull in towards your chest.
  4. As soon as you feel a stretch, stop and hold for 3 deep breaths.
  5. Switch sides. Then alternate back and forth for a total of 3 times per side. If it feels good, try holding a bit longer each time.


Benefits for low back pain:

This move stretches out your glute muscles and opens your hips to provide relief for lower back pain. Try it after a long day of standing or sitting at a computer.



#7: Supine Twist

How to do it:

  1. Lie flat on your back with legs outstretched and arms out to your side. Your body should form a “T” shape.
  2. Pull your knees toward your chest, flexing your feet. Inhale.
  3. Keeping your upper torso, head and neck stationary, exhale and drop your knees to your left side.
  4. Roll onto your left hip. Take 3 to 4 deep breaths.
  5. Next, as you inhale, use your abdominal muscles to return your knees back to the center.
  6. Repeat on the other side.


Benefits for low back pain:

The supine spinal twist stretches your back muscles. Also, it realigns and elongates your spine along with hydrating your spinal disks. All in all, it’s an amazing activity for lower back pain control.



#8: Single Knee to Chest

Woman lying and doing Half Knees to Chest Pose at home

How to do it:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your legs extended out long.
  2. While exhaling, draw one knee up towards your chest.
  3. Wrap your arms around your knee and breathe
  4. Slightly release your muscles as you inhale.
  5. Exhale, again while gently pulling your knees toward your chest.
  6. Release the leg and practice on the other side.


Benefits for low back pain:

This stretch targets the entire back and the glutes. Doing a knee-to-chest stretch can help elongate the lower back, relieving tension and pain.


Ready to say goodbye to back pain?

These powerful stretches will set you on the road to recovery and relief. Try practicing them first thing in the morning or in the evening. If you feel pain during any of these exercises, stop and consult your local AlignLife Chiropractor to assess your specific situation or ask if there are other exercises you could be doing to strengthen your body and increase your mobility. You should also check out these natural pain relievers!



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