Low back pain is the most common condition in older adults that leads to pain and disability. It’s experienced by both sedentary people and athletes. It can be caused by numerous different factors, which for older adults can include arthritis or disc degeneration. However, a large proportion of low back pain is muscle-related.
If you’re currently experiencing low back pain from excessively tight muscles (see your doctor or physical therapist to be sure), these three lower back pain stretches can help.
3 Gentle Stretches to Relieve Low Back Pain
1. Child’s Pose
A common yoga pose, this stretch can relieve tension in both the low back and the lats (the large v-shaped muscle forming the bulk of your mid and upper back).
Start on your hands and knees on the floor, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. As you reach your arms out in front of you, keeping your arms straight, sit your hips back toward your feet. Drop your head and chest between your arms as you get closer to the floor.
2. Lying Twist
This stretch can alleviate tightness in the low back as well as in the glutes and upper back (tightness in these muscle groups can contribute to low back pain). I often use this move with my older clients as a warm-up mobility exercise before strength-training sessions.
Lie on your right side with knees bent and arms stacked. Keeping your knees together, extend your left arm toward the left, creating a “T” shape with your arms. Go as far as you comfortably can, even if your left shoulder doesn’t touch the floor. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides.
3. Lying Glute Stretch
This stretch targets the glutes, which often contribute to low back pain. Also, lying on the floor with a neutral back position (i.e., back flat) often helps to relieve pain.
Lie on your back with knees bent. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh and grasp the back of your left thigh with both hands. Gently pull your left leg toward you to feel a stretch in the right glute and hip. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides. To intensify the stretch, you can place one hand on your right knee and gently push it away from you.
When experiencing back pain due to tight muscles, one of the most intuitive stretches people perform is the bend-over-and-touch-your-toes stretch. Unfortunately, this puts the lumbar spine under excessive stress and should be avoided. Low back pain can also be a symptom of dysfunction in other parts of the body, including knees, hips, feet, hamstrings, glutes and hips. See a physical therapist for an assessment and a treatment plan tailored to your needs.