fix lower back pain

How Stretching Could Help Fix Your Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is one of the most frequent causes of activity limitation in adults today and, unfortunately, the root cause can be hard to diagnose.

As part of a series on lower back pain, this article will focus on how tight muscles could be the culprit behind your daily pain and will provide examples of stretches that you can do in the comfort of your own home.

Is my back pain simply caused by muscular tightness?

There’s nothing more discouraging than trying to stand up in the mornings and clutching the edge of your bed in hopes for a pain free exit, only to be greeted by a sharp debilitating pain across your lower back. Unfortunately, this pain can be caused by many reasons, including excessive muscle tightness, inadequate muscular strength, bone or muscle structural issues, and/or life balance struggles such as excessive stress.

To determine whether or not your lower back pain is caused by muscular tightness, consider the following question: Do you find your lower back pain is triggered or significantly worse after…

  • Sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time?
  • Walking, jogging or running?
  • Climbing up or down stairs?
  • Lying flat on your back?
  • Bending down to pick something off the ground?

If some or all these things aggravate your back, it is a good indication that muscular tightness could be causing your discomfort.

Why would muscular tightness cause this pain?

When muscles are tight and stiff, they can cause movement restriction by reducing a joint’s range of motion or altering the way our body naturally moves. This can later manifest as pain.  

It might come as a surprise, but three common muscle groups that, when tight, may contribute to your nagging back pain include your:

  • quadriceps (thighs),
  • hamstrings (back of the upper leg), and
  • pectorals (chest).

The quadriceps and hamstrings are muscles that attach to your hips and, when excessively tight, can pull the hip bone out of alignment. This puts an excess amount of stress on the lower back and the surrounding musculature.

Additionally, when your upper body and thoracic cage are very restricted, everything below (from your hips down to your toes) will be negatively affected as well. All this muscular restriction will force the lower back muscles to work overtime to compensate – causing inflammation and pain.

How can I fix this pain by stretching?

If your lower back pain is caused by muscular tightness, try to complete the following stretches 2-4 times a week for one month and see if you feel a difference. Remember – never stretch to the point of pain, and ensure that you are breathing deeply throughout these exercises to maximize the effects!

Please note: it is imperative to understand that structural problems may have different treatment guidelines that need to be carefully monitored and progressed by a health care professional. It is always recommended to first consult your doctor or kinesiologist before embarking on any treatment plan.

Stretch #1: Quadriceps Muscle Group

Length and duration: Hold each side for 60-90 seconds, repeat 2x/side

Instructions:

  • From a standing or kneeling position, place your foot up on a chair or bench, remaining balanced on the other leg
  • Keep your upper body straight and tuck your tailbone through your legs by tilting your hip bones up towards your belly button and squeezing your glutes. You should feel a stretch down your front thigh – on the side with the leg that has the foot elevated.

To deepen the stretch, decrease the angle of your elevated foot on the chair or bench.

Quads Stretch (1)

Quadriceps Stretch: Option 1

Quads Stretch (2)

Quadriceps Stretch: Option 2


Stretch #2: Hamstrings Muscle Group

Length and duration: Hold each side for 90-120 seconds, repeat 2x/side

Instructions:

  • Using a doorway or supporting wall, lay on your back with one heel up against the doorway and one leg flat on the ground, parallel to the wall
  • While keeping both legs straight, inch down towards the wall as much as possible until you feel a stretch behind the leg that’s propped up on the doorway
  • Relax into the stretch. Over time, you will be able to move closer and closer to the wall.

Hamstring Stretch (2)

Hamstring Stretch: Lighter Stretch

Hamstring Stretch (1)

Hamstring Stretch: Deeper Stretch

Stretch #3: Pectorals Muscle Group

Length and duration: Hold each side for 60-90 seconds, repeat 2x/side

Instructions:

  • Place an open palm and bent elbow on the surface of a doorway or corner of a wall. Face perpendicular to the wall. Your bent elbow should rest at about shoulder height.
  • Turn your body away from the rested arm until you feel a stretch, and hold for the recommended duration. Note: you can play with the angle of your bent elbow to vary the feeling and depth of the stretch!

Pectorals Stretch (1)

Pectoral Stretch: Placement Example 1

Pectorals Stretch (2)

Pectoral Stretch: Placement Example 2

Pectorals Stretch (3)

Pectoral Stretch: Front View

If you need further guidance or have any questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your Copeman Kinesiologist. They will be more than happy to help you with coaching to ensure your stretches are safe and are helping you to achieve your fitness goals!

Looking to extend beyond the basics? Check out our Movement and Strength Lab for structured, personalized training programs to help you with your health and fitness goals.