The spine moves in multiple directions, helping us to walk, bend, twist, and turn. To maintain these movements and keep them pain-free these back pain stretches are so important.
Written by: Coach Todd
Do some days feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your back? Like literally carrying the weight of the world? Every step of every day reminds you of that weight with the pinching pain or constant ache of your low back.
You look around to see others standing tall, as if nothing is weighing them down… as if they’ve never experienced low back pain.
Now, these people aren’t naturally light as a feather — and they HAVE experienced similar pains as you. So how did they overcome it?
Well, it wasn’t by kicking up their feet for a few days and resting. In fact, resting may actually lead to worse spinal misalignment than before! Instead, those who want to feel light as a feather do this:
Importance of Traction & Back Pain Stretches for Spinal Health
Traction is a therapeutic method to ease pain caused by spinal decompression by stretching and realigning the spine. By placing the right stretch on our back, we can relieve direct nerve pressure and stress.
Below are 7 nightly back pain stretches you can do to help realign your spine, ease low back pain, and fall asleep comfortably:
The Rag Doll Stretch
Sit on the edge of the chair, slowly fold your arms and chest down until your hands touch the ground. Take a few deep breaths, and on every exhale, sink lower and lower into the stretch.
When you are ready to return, walk your hands up your legs, pressing into your palms to slowly realign one vertebra at a time.
Repeat this stretch 2 more times.
Over the course of the day, our spines compress through sitting, standing, and walking. Every day our spines are fighting gravity to get us through. But this fight can cause pinching of the nerves.
The Rag Doll stretch helps to decompress our spines, creating added space between the vertebrae. The deeper into the stretch you can get, the more you’ll feel it in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the low back as well.
Remember to focus on your breathing, as hanging upside down for too long can make you light-headed. Take 1-2 deep breaths before returning to an upright position, then take a few deep breaths before folding back over again.
If you still feel light-headed, stop this stretch and move to the next one.
The Spinal Twist
Remain on the edge of the chair. Reach your right arm down and back (think about reaching for the back leg of a standard chair).
Take your left hand and press it to the outside of your right leg to get a deeper stretch. Your back may crack, and while that’s okay, that is not your end goal.
With every exhale, sink further back into the stretch.
Hold this position for 10 seconds.
Return to the center and pause before switching sides. Now repeat twisting to the opposite different. Again, hold for 10 seconds.
Repeat 3 times in each direction.
Each vertebra of our spine is connected through structures called ligaments. But, when overworked, these ligaments can grow thin and weak. The spinal twist helps to strengthen these ligaments between the vertebrae through its rotational movement.
Knee to Chest
Keep a tall posture, lift one knee up off the ground and pull it towards your chest with both hands.
Take a few deep breaths and then release the leg.
Please note, if you have knee pain, only bring up your leg as high as comfortable.
Now switch sides and perform on the opposite leg. Holding each stretch for 2-3 breaths.
Repeat 3 times per side.
The hips and low back are common places for pinched nerves. Constant compression and movement make it difficult for nerves to maintain their space and function.
The Knee to Chest stretch relieves pressure on those spinal nerves by creating more space.
Side Bend with Twist
This exercise can be done sitting or standing. For the best stretch perform in standing.
While keeping one hand by your side (or rested on the arm of your chair), reach the opposite hand toward the sky.
Slowly turn towards the resting arm, look over your shoulder for a deeper stretch, twist as far as comfortable before releasing in a controlled manner and switching sides.
Repeat 3 times to each side.
Beyond releasing the daily compression felt on our spine, the Side Bend with Twist helps to strengthen the small but deep spinal muscles that wrap around the spine, increasing spinal stability.
This may be one of the most simple, yet difficult, exercises to perform.
In a rigid chair, sit all the way back in a comfortable, tall posture.
If you don’t have a rigid chair, sit forward on the edge of the seat.
Take a deep inhale and let your belly expand.
On a short exhale, push your lower back flat into the chair while only feeling your pelvis tilt backward. No other body part should move. This is called a posterior tilt.
With a controlled movement, return to the center, inhale and begin again.
Repeat 5 times.
As any woman who has naturally birthed a child knows, the pelvic floor is important not only for hip and low back health but for overall stability as well. And it’s not just important for women.
Men carry stress in their hips, and over the years, this stress evolves into an extreme pelvic tilt in one direction and chronic low back pain.
Ease the pain and strengthen your low back by practicing these tilts on a daily basis.
Find a comfortable position to sit in the chair with your spine neutral.
You should have discovered this neutral/tall posture from the previous exercise. Relax your arms by your sides, on your hips, or resting on the arms of your chair.
While remaining flat on the chair, shift your right thigh forward. You will feel the top of your thigh and core fire up with very little movement. Hold this position for 3 seconds.
Next, bring your right thigh back as far as you can while simultaneously shifting your left thigh forward. Hold for 3 seconds.
Alternate this movement 3 times with each leg.
A modified variation of what chiropractors and athletic trainers do to help realign the hips, Thigh Shuffles encourage stability and strength — not to mention breath and muscle control — in the low back and hips.
Seated Cat/Cow Stretch
Sit on the edge of your chair and place your hands on your knees.
Take a deep inhale and expand your belly, sides, and back similar to the pelvic tilts.
Upon exhaling, round your spine, sliding your hands down your knees and tucking your chin for greater depth.
Go as far as comfortable (or until your exhale is complete).
Inhale and return past the neutral position and into a slight back arch.
Repeat these two movements 5 times moving with your breath.
Probably one of the most relaxing stretches to fall into after the previous six, the Seated Cat/Cow stretch rounds the spine in a controlled and uniform way as opposed to the all-too-common “desk slouch.”
This stretch helps to loosen any stress or tightness carried in the entire back.
There you have it!
Back Pain Stretches Follow-Along Video
“If You Would Seek Health, First Look at the Spine”
If only Socrates knew how right he was. The low back has some of the most complex intersections of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Nerves spread from each vertebrae connecting them to the rest of our body.
Because of this, whatever happens to our spine, happens to the rest of our body. Pinched nerves create stress in all other areas of our body, making it difficult to function on a daily basis.
However, including these 7 back pain stretches into our daily routine will help.
Looking for a gentle full-body exercise routine? Our Isometrics Strength program is for you!
It will have all your joints thanking you!
Check it out here.