There’s nothing more debilitating than lower back pain. The grimaces, groans, and feeble feelings one gets from throwing your back out happen because the area is full of nerve endings that react violently to any injury inflicted on them (like a twist while carrying a particularly squirmy kid). If you’ve strained a muscle, there is no real shortcut to healing: You have to rest, ice, and wait it out as your body repairs the microtears. But often, back pain is caused not by tears but by tightness or spasms, and these issues can be addressed through stretching.
These 7 moves are designed to target your lower back. In each case, the stretch should be no deeper than a position you can comfortably hold for at least 30 seconds, and should never be so intense as to cause pain. Slowly ease into each position, and when you reach a point of manageable intensity, focus on breathing in and out deeply for 30 seconds to one minute.
Funny, isn’t it, that a likely source of your back pain is also the name of the exercise to ease it? To perform this yoga-inspired move, start on all fours. Slowly sink your hips back toward your feet, until your butt touches your heels and your chest is pressed against your quads. Extend your arms in front of you and feel the gentle stretch along your back.
Turn over onto your back and bend your knees, feet flat on the floor. Raise your feet and bring your knees toward your chest. Wrap your arms over your shins as if you are giving them a big hug. Gently pull your knees in closer to your spine, raising your head so that your back is rounded.
Start facing a chair back, table, or sturdy towel rack. Cross your right foot over your left knee, bending your right knee out to the side so that your legs form the shape of the number “4.” Holding the support in front of you, bend your left knee, stick your butt out, and sink into the stretch, rounding your spine and pulling away from the support to deepen the stretch in your lower back. Repeat on the opposite side.
Another yoga classic, start this move on all fours. Drop your head toward the floor and round your back, imagining the center of your spine being lift by a string toward the ceiling.
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Spread arms out to either side for support. Gently let your knees drop to the right side while you rotate your head and torso to the left. Return to center, repeat the stretch on the opposite side.
Sitting in a chair, cross your right leg over your left. Place your left hand at the outside of your right knee. Gently press against your right knee as you twist your head and torso to the right, letting your legs turn slightly to the left. Return to neutral. Repeat on the opposite side.
Sometimes, a tight lower back is exacerbated by even tighter hamstrings. For this stretch, start sitting on the floor, both legs straight in front of you. Turn your right leg out and bend your right knee, sliding your right foot up so it touches the instep of your left knee. Lean forward and grab your left toes with both hands (grasp your left calf if you don’t have the flexibility to reach that far) feeling the stretch down your back. Repeat on the opposite side.