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Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/30/2023

Many of us spend a lot of time sitting in bad postures or doing repetitive movements. Over time, this can create imbalances and asymmetry in your hips, spine, shoulders, and entire body. And it can really wreak havoc in your lower back and cause pain. But some simple exercises can help you find major relief. Read on to discover the best stretches for lower back pain.

In this article:


Causes of lower back pain

A lot of low back pain comes from our daily habits and the postures we spend time in.

Some of the biggest causes of lower back pain include:

  1. Sitting too much.
  2. Crossing your legs.
  3. Repetitive exercises or movements.

So many of us spend a lot of time sitting at work, hanging out on the couch, or driving. It's no wonder that back pain is so common.

How can you find relief? By stretching. But only if you do it the right way.

lower back pain

The right way to stretch: opposite of what you might think

The typical way we are taught to stretch is actually the complete opposite of what works best.

Whereas most people would say you should stretch the parts of your body that feel tightest, it is actually best to stretch the opposite parts of the body.

Every time you stretch on the opposite side of the body from the tight part, you create a signal that is essentially a "turn off" sign for the tight muscles that allows them to relax.

If you take this principle and apply it to your whole body (your hips, your spine, your knees, your back...), you can really melt your muscles. This will help you regain symmetry, balance, and alignment and ultimately help you relieve pain.

So when it comes to good lower back stretches for pain, you will want to stretch the opposite way of what you might think.

With each type of stretch, you will first check the range of motion and the tightness level in different areas. Whatever side is the hardest and tightest, you'll go to the opposite part of the body and stretch there.


4 of the best stretches for low back pain

In the video above, I show you how to stretch the lower part of your body: the hips and the lower back. Watch for a detailed, step-by-step demonstration of these good lower back stretches.

The best way to do these exercises is with a buddy. It is easiest to have someone on hand to help you, so that they can stretch you. But it is possible to do on your own, too.

Each back pain stretch begins with testing your range of motion in the area on both sides. You will then stretch on whatever side was easiest, opposite of the tightness. Stretching this way will send signals to the tight side to loosen up.

best stretches for low back pain

Stretch #1

Determine which side is tightest:

Lie flat on your back and bend one knee. Hold your knee in your hands, and pull it towards you. Do this knee-to-chest movement on both sides. If your knee won't bend easily on one side, then you have a tight glute and tight muscles on the back on that side.

How to stretch it:

If the muscles on the back are tight, we will stretch the front muscles on that side of the body. As I mentioned earlier, you always stretch the part of your body opposite of the tightness.

Lie on your stomach and bend the knee on the side of the body that is tight. Have your buddy put one hand on your lower back and one hand under your knee. They should then gently pull your knee upward. Have them do this repeatedly, holding the gentle stretch for a second or two and then releasing for a few seconds.

If you are by yourself, lie face up on the edge of a bed or a couch. Let your tight leg fall off of the side of the couch. Pull your knee downwards. Stretch and relax repeatedly, as described above.

Stretch #2

Determine which side is tightest:

Do the stretching movement described above in Stretch #1 on both sides. Which side is tightest in the front? If it is easier to move your left leg compared to your right leg, then you'll know you are tight in the front muscles on the left side.

How to stretch it out:

When you have tightness on the front side, you want to stretch the back counterpart of those muscles.

So sit in a chair and cross your tight leg over the other leg, so that your ankle or calf rests on the stationary leg. With your hands, pull your knee towards your chest. Bend forward, creasing at the hip. You should feel your low back and butt stretching, even down into your hamstring. Repeat several times, taking deep breaths as you stretch and release.

Stretch #3

Determine which side is tightest:

This stretch looks at the tensor fasciae latae muscle. Stand up with your feet hip-width apart, and push your pelvis out to the right. Lean away and keep pushing your hips to the right. Repeat on the other side, pushing your hips out to the left. Does one side feel tighter than the other?

How to stretch it out:

On the side the felt easier (opposite of the tight side), repeat the movement. This time, really push your hips out to the side while bending, getting in a really good stretch. Do that a few times in a row, relaxing in between stretches.

Stretch #4

Determine which side is tightest:

Sit up tall with your back and spine upright. Put your right hand on your left knee and twist toward the left. Twist your spine and chest so that you are looking backwards to the left. Repeat on the other side. See which side is harder to do.

How to stretch it out:

If you can't twist as easily to the left, then you are going to repeat this motion on the right side. If you can't twist as easily to the right, then do it towards the left. Repeat the twisting motion on the easy side, getting deep into the twist. Act as if your body is a rag and you are trying to wring water out of it.


Other things that can help

In addition to these four best stretching exercises for low back pain, you may try these techniques to help:


Pain not going away

In some cases, you can do all the stretching and pain exercises in the world and your pain will still be there. If it is sticking around, then there may be something else causing pain in the low back area. Follow this link to learn about potential causes of unresolved back pain. These causes might include:

  1. Kidney stones.
  2. Endometriosis, fibroids, ovarian cysts, or PCOS.
  3. Enlarged prostate.


Pain in the back is a very common problem.

But back pain doesn't have to be your new normal. There are many helpful stretches you can do at home that will help improve your symptoms. Follow the steps above, and watch the video to learn the best way to stretch the lower back.

And remember, you will want to stretch in the opposite way that you might think. That is how you will get the best relief possible.

Give these stretches a try, and then let me know how they work for you in the comments below.

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