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  • Oliver Cunningham

Stretches to Ease Lower Back Pain




Lower back pain is one of the leading causes of discomfort and pain and is the number one cause for disability worldwide. Experts estimate that as much as 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Most cases of back pain are not caused by serious conditions, but rather by things such as poor posture, weak muscles, and a lack of awareness. Luckily, there are strategies you can take to help alleviate or prevent low back pain (LBP).


Those with LBP typically lack flexibility and mobility in the areas at or around the lower back. These areas might include tight hamstrings, hip flexors, psoas, gluteus medius/maximus, piriformis, or quadratus lumborum. An easy strategy to determine which muscle group is the culprit is to mobilize and stretch them one at a time, testing symptoms after each. I recommend foam rolling each muscle group as well. Here are some stretches for each muscle group for you to try.

*if the stretch causes pain, stop and move onto the next muscle group.

Hamstrings

  1. Lie on the floor on your back.

  2. Loop a long bath towel around the ball of your foot and hold the ends of the towel in both hands.

  3. Slowly pull on the towel to lift your straight leg up. Be sure to keep your knee straight. The leg without the towel should remain flat on the ground.

  4. Bring your leg up until a stretch is felt behind your thigh. You may also feel a stretch in your calf.

  5. Hold for 30 seconds, then relax.

  6. Repeat 5 times on each leg.

Hip Flexors

  1. Kneel on your right knee.

  2. Put your left foot on the floor with your left knee at a 90-degree angle

  3. Drive your hip forward. Maintaining a straight back, lean your torso forward.

  4. Hold the position for 30 seconds.

  5. Repeat 5 times with each leg, trying to increase your stretch each time.

Glutes

  1. Sit upright in a sturdy chair. Place your right ankle on your left thigh, just above your knee. Place your hands on your shins.

  2. Keeping your spine straight, lean slightly forward to deepen the stretch.

  3. Hold for 30 seconds.

  4. Return to the starting position. Repeat 5 times. Repeat with the other leg.

Quadratus Lumborum (QL)

  1. From a kneeling position, extend your right leg to the side with your toes facing forward or to the right.

  2. Bend to the right, placing your right hand along your leg.

  3. Extend your left arm up and over, reaching to the right.

  4. Extend through your left fingertips and roll your left ribs up toward the ceiling.

  5. Hold this position for 30 seconds.

  6. Repeat on the opposite side.

Psoas

  1. Sit on the edge of a bench, table, or bed, and hug one knee toward your chest.

  2. Keeping the other leg extended and hanging off the bench, slowly lean back until you’re lying down.

  3. Continue hugging your knee toward your chest, and hold for 30 seconds to passively stretch the psoas of your hanging leg.

  4. Release your knee and repeat on the other side.

*If your LBP is due to an acute injury or an underlying condition, these strategies should be avoided until you consult your doctor.


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