How to Relieve Lower Back Pain with Stretches and Massage

Lower back Stretches to Relieve pain

Stretches / December 6, 2016

Do you have low back pain? You’re not alone – 31% of people worldwide have previously, or currently experience this common health problem. If you spend long hours sitting at a desk, lift weights with poor form, or experienced previous injury being active or playing sports, there’s a good chance you have pain in your back.

Low back pain is one of the most difficult areas for health care practitioners to treat. Not only are there several possible sources of pain (including lumbar discs, facet joints, muscles, nerves, and ligaments), but there are several ways to hurt them – from bending over incorrectly, chronic poor posture, untreated strains from overuse and misuse, sitting too much, exercising too much, the list goes on.

What makes it more confusing is that different causes of back pain require different types of treatment.

Let’s first understand the most common causes of low back pain.

1. Chronic Poor Posture

Chances are that if you work in an office, you sit a lot. Sitting for prolonged periods of time is less than ideal because the seated posture (especially bad posture) places increased pressure on your spine. Over time your muscles can adapt to this chronic posture leading to some major muscular imbalances. The hip flexor muscles on the front of your legs and your hamstrings on the back can become tight and shortened, which can impair your ability to move correctly.

For instance, if your hip flexors are tight, you’ll have less hip extension. This means that when your leg goes behind you, it will pull on your pelvis and spine, creating extra rotation and extension in your lumbar region. This isn’t good.

If your hamstrings are tight, you’ll lack the ability to flex at your hips and pelvis. Once this happens, you’ll compensate for the lack of mobility by bending your low back more, which puts the muscles in the back in a weaker position and increases your risk of rupturing your lumbar discs.

2. Poor Movement Mechanics

Even if you have the flexibility of a yoga master, you may not be moving correctly. When your spine is out of its neutral position, the muscles that support the spine are at a biomechanical disadvantage (either too short or too long). Your ability to stabilize your trunk will be compromised. Every time you pick something up with a rounded back, you’re putting yourself at risk. And if you’re picking up something heavy, the risk increases exponentially. This is why it’s critical to be aware of your spinal posture when lifting and exercising!

Low-Back Pain Strategy


1. Moving More (Not Less) Helps Your Lower Back

In the past, many health practitioners only prescribed bed rest. However, movement and return to ordinary activity help people recover faster.

Unless it’s too painful to move, your back will benefit from light exercise, which can help increase circulation and speed up recovery. If you have pain from some sort of trauma or have nerve symptoms that travel down into your legs (or weakness of any kind), then see a health practitioner.

Otherwise, the sooner you can start incorporating light exercise, the quicker your recovery can be.

2. Be Mindful That Pain Affects How Your Body Moves

The human body is pretty incredible. Your body “remembers” where you’ve been hurt, and even once you recover from the pain, the control of your muscles often changes in ways that you may not feel or be aware of.

The main muscles that experience change after low back pain are the transverse abdominus (TvA) and the multifidus (MFD). These are both deep trunk muscles that help to stabilize the spine and prevent it from moving, especially under load.

After a bout of back pain, the timing of TvA and MFD is thrown off (often delayed), and they may also become weak. The hope is that by training and recruiting these muscles with targeted exercises, their function will normalize.

3. Improve Hip Flexibility & Lumbar Spine Stability

The primary strategy for successful low back pain recovery and prevention is to improve (1) flexibility in your hips and (2) stability in your lumbar spine. These two exercise strategies help combat the two primary causes of low back pain.

Maintaining flexibility in your hips helps to prevent excessive movement in your low back. For instance, if your hip flexors are tight, you won’t be able to bring your leg behind you without either rotating your pelvis or overarching your low back. You’ll also end up compensating when you want to bend from the hips – if you lack hip flexion, you’ll round out your back when you squat all the way down.

In addition to hip mobility, you should train your spine stability. Start with exercises where your focus is to keep your spine still, such as the plank. By doing this, you’ll strengthen your spinal muscles in a safe position and learn to feel what it’s like to keep your spine completely stable.

Here are the best exercises to loosen your hips and strengthen your core to prevent and relieve back pain.

1. Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

As mentioned earlier, you’ll want to have flexible hip flexors. After your warm-up routine (when your muscles and tissues are more pliable), perform a half-kneeling hip flexor stretch for 30-60 seconds on each side.

Instructions: Kneel on one knee, tighten your abdominals, and push your pelvis forward without letting the pelvis tip anteriorly. To bias the psoas muscle even more, reach up and across with the same side arm.

2. Standing or Supine Hamstring Stretch

Flexbility Test: If you can’t bend forward at your pelvis to 70-degrees, then you most likely have tight hamstrings. But, if you feel tightness or a zinging sensation into your calves when you try this, the cause is actually your nerve and you may benefit from seeing a physical therapist.

Remember, if your hamstrings are tight, when you bend down to pick something up your back will be doing the movement instead of your hips. That increases your risk of back injury.

To increase your hamstring flexibility, perform this simple standing hamstring stretch for 30-60 seconds on each leg.

Instructions: Put your leg onto an elevated surface, then reach your navel towards your knee with a flat back. No need to reach forward with your hands as you’ll only be rounding out your back, which defeats the purpose of the stretch.

Alternatively, you could perform this stretch in a supine position (on your back) with the aid of a belt.