10 Lower Back Stretches to Relieve Pain

Are you experiencing lower back pain? Our personal trainer, Jess Lees, explains ten lower back stretches to relieve pain. Jess also discusses what causes lower back pain and lifestyle adjustments you can make to reduce it.

If you experience lower back pain, try to stretch out your back daily. The morning is a good time to check in with your back and listen to what you’re feeling. Notice any misalignment and remember to reset and realign throughout the day.

Effective Lower Back Stretches

Done often and correctly, the following stretches will help to relieve lower back pain. They will also improve your alignment and posture. To make stretching a priority, try setting a reminder on your phone to stretch in the morning and at lunchtime.

Pay attention to how each stretch feels. There’s not one lower back stretch that suits everyone. Listen to your body and try a variety of stretches to make sure you are doing the right ones for you.

1) Pelvic Tilt

To perform this lower back stretch:

  • Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  • Squeeze the pelvic floor muscles and then the core to activate the glutes.
  • Tilting the pelvis backward, push the lower back into the mat.
  • Release, letting the pelvis tilt forward.
  • Repeat 10 times, in a slow and controlled manner.
Lower back stretches - Pelvic tilt

2) Reset Your Pelvis

To perform this lower back stretch:

  • Start on your back with your hips flexed, knees bent and brought up towards the chest.
  • Push your right knee with your right hand, while pushing back against it with the leg – this will engage the right hip flexor.
  • At the same time pull your left knee with your left hand while countering the pressure with the left leg – activating the left hamstring.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Switch sides.
  • Repeat 3 or 4 times on each side and then squeeze a ball between your knees for 5 seconds. You could use a football, medicine ball, or even a folded up cushion.
  • You may feel a ‘pop’ or even ‘clunk’ as the pubic symphysis resets. This means that the pelvis is restored to a normal position.
Lower back stretches - Pelvis reset

3) Cat/Cow

To perform this lower back stretch:

  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • Wrists under shoulders, stacked in a straight line.
  • Spine in neutral.
  • Initiate the cat position. Starting at the pelvis — squeeze the pelvic floor and glutes as tight as you can.
  • Arching your back, round through the shoulders and drop the head.
  • Move into the cow. Starting at the pelvis, tilt in the opposite direction, dropping the belly towards the ground.
  • Squeeze the shoulders back and look up towards the ceiling.
  • Exaggerate the position as much as is comfortable.
  • Slowly move between the cat and cow – breathing deeply.
  • Repeat the set 4/5 times.
Lower back stretches - Cat

4) Deep Squat with Hands in Prayer

To perform this lower back stretch:

  • Get into a deep squat position
  • Feet flat on the ground – toes turned out
  • With your hands together in a prayer position, place your elbows inside the knees and push the hips open.
  • Torso as upright as possible and back straight.
  • Breath deeply into this stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds – repeat.
Lower back stretches - Deep squat

5) Supine Twist

To perform this lower back stretch:

  • Lie on your back.
  • Arms flat on the mat in a T position.
  • Bring the knees up into a right angle – stack the knees on top of each other and drop them to one side.
  • Turn the head away from the legs.
  • You should feel this in the glutes and lumbar.
  • Slowly bring the legs over to the other side turning the head to the opposite side.
  • Repeat 3 to 4 times – holding the stretch for 10/20 seconds each side.
Lower back stretches - Supine spinal twist

6) Happy Baby

To perform this lower back stretch:

  • Lie on your back and open up the hips.
  • Lower back should be flat against the mat.
  • If you are able, place the palms of your hands onto the base of the feet and pull the hips open. If this is too intense, hold the calves.
  • Push the back into the mat and take deep breaths.
  • Hold for 30 seconds – repeat 3 times.
Lower back stretches - Happy baby

7) Aided Hamstring Stretch

Using a resistance band, belt or scarf to assist you:

  • Lie on your back.
  • Raise one leg straight up towards the ceiling, foot flexed.
  • Use the aid looped over the foot to increase the stretch, pulling the leg towards the torso.
  • Breath into the stretch – hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat each side 3 times, try to increase the range of movement each time.
Lower back stretches - Aided hamstring stretch

8) Child's Pose

To perform this lower back stretch:

  • Start in a kneeling position – knees wider than your hips.
  • Raise your arms up and fold forward chest to the floor. Resting your forehead on the ground.
  • Walk your hands out lengthening as much as possible.
  • Push your armpits into the ground, feeling the stretch in the rear deltoids, thoracic spine, hips and glutes.
  • Hold for 30 seconds – breathing deeply.
Lower back stretches -Childs pose

9) Cobra

To perform this lower back stretch:

  • Lie on your stomach.
  • Post up onto your elbows – slowly and gently, feel into the stretch.
  • Squeeze the glutes, push the hips into the mat and straighten the arms pushing through the palms.
  • Look straight forward.
  • Be gentle doing this stretch – if it feels uncomfortable at all, ease off into child's pose.
  • Hold the stretch for 5 deep breaths, release and repeat twice more.
Lower back stretches - Cobra

10) Knees to Chest

To perform this lower back stretch:

  • Lying on your back, bring your knees up, place your hands on top of the knees, at the top of the shin bone.
  • Increase the stretch, pulling the legs in tighter.
  • Breath deeply.
  • To modify the stretch you can rock from side to side or circle the knees.
  • Hold for 30 seconds to a minute – breathing into the stretch.
  • Repeat twice more.
Lower back stretches - Knees to chest

What causes lower back pain?

As with most discomfort and tightness, lower back pain tends to be caused by a type of postural imbalance. Weakness in some areas and tightness in others, causes the body to hold itself in a way that is uncomfortable.

These imbalances can have numerous causes, including:

  • Sitting incorrectly for extended periods.
  • Sedentary lifestyle.
  • Improper posture while moving.
  • Stress.
  • Holding excess weight around the stomach area.
  • Tightness in the hip flexors, hamstrings or glutes.
Lower back stretches - Sitting incorrectly

The lower back, unfortunately, bears the brunt of these lifestyle factors.

The lower back (lumbar spine) is anatomically a complicated area. It is where the hips and spine meet. We flex and rotate in multiple different directions and planes of movement.

The main lumbar back muscles are the quadratus lumborum (QL). The QL attaches to the iliac crest (top of the hip bone), the lumbar vertebrae and the last rib. Essentially the QL connects the hip to the lumbar spine and the lowest part of the rib cage.

If all were working correctly and postural balanced, the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominals and glutes will all work together to support the QL. But this is not often the case.

The body is practised at avoiding pain. So, if the lower back is tweaked we often adopt an adjusted posture in the pelvis unconsciously.

You will feel as though your back pain has alleviated. But now you are more prone to further issues and an increased chance of another back tweak. It could even be sneezing or getting out of the car in an awkward position.

Ingraining improper movement patterns or adopting a poor position while seated can turn lower back pain into a real problem.

Once the back starts to seize up, people can find they tend to stop moving around as much. This tends to make the problem worse. Keep moving – gently and consciously. If you can stand, try gentle walking.

Lifestyle changes to reduce lower back pain

In the long term, look for exercises that strengthen the core, the glutes and the upper back. This will help to realign your pelvis and improve your posture. Strengthening these muscles means they take some of the workloads from the QL, resulting in less tightness.

To complement the lower back stretches we have discussed, try to make a few lifestyle adjustments. These will help to break the cycle of tweaking and misalignment.

Lifestyle adjustments should include:

  • Moving and resetting your posture every 30mins when sitting.
  • Keeping moving, even when you experience tightness.
  • Stretching everyday.
  • Strengthening the core.
  • Managing your weight – through a balanced diet.
  • Squatting to pick up everything you lift. Make it conscious – bend your knees.
  • Try to cut down as much as possible on driving.
  • Once or twice a week, follow a YouTube lower back specific yoga session. Yoga with Adriene has some great videos demonstrating yoga for the lower back.

We hope these lower back stretches have helped to ease your pain and improve your posture. Please note, this post does not constitute medical advice. It is always a good idea to discuss any ongoing pain with a medical professional.

Looking for other ways to keep moving? Check out our library of home workouts and fitness challenges: