Patients regularly admit that before an episode of acute back pain they had stiffness that they ignored for weeks or even months. This stiffness is a good warning sign and we often ignore it to our peril! A stiff back can be stretched out quickly and painlessly, a painful back needs far more time, attention and in many cases expense to resolve.
The following stretches will help to keep your back from tightening up and putting you at risk of back pain. Once back pain has started some of these stretches may be too much for your spine to cope with. If this is the case seek professional advice before stretching with back pain.
Lying flat on your back, on a firm surface, bring your knees up and place your feet flat (as above).
Keeping your knees and ankles together, slowly rock your knees from side to side repetitively. Try to keep your pelvis flat to the floor as long as possible and only allow your hip to roll over into rotation when the legs can go no further without the back twisting. When rocking from side to side only pause momentarily before returning and avoid “bouncing” on the end of range.
The stretch should not be painful. Only take the back through a range of movement that is comfortable with a gentle stretch at the end of each rocking motion. This stretch is a great way to improve flexibility gently and also manage muscle tightness in chronic back pain sufferers and arthritic patients.
Lying on your back, bring your knees up towards your chest and hug them with your arms. Gently squeeze your knees into your chest. The stretch should be felt in the lower back and should not hurt. If this exercise is painful then stop immediately and consider seeking professional advice. As long as the stretch is comfortable hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat as required up to 5 times per day.
Lying flat on your back, stretch your left arm out to your side and bring your left leg up with a 90 degree bend at the hip and knee (as seen above). Then place your right hand across your body and onto the outside of your elevated leg.
Keeping your back relaxed, gently apply pressure to the outside of your left knee, pulling it across your body (as above). If you feel discomfort in your groin as you do this stretch, move your knee a little higher or lower and it should subside. Pull your leg across your body far enough to feel a stretch in your mid to low back. Once this has been achieved hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. You may feel the leg continue to drop throughout this time, this is nothing to fear, you are improving! I would not advise repeating this stretch more than 5 times a day on both sided.
This is a strong stretch. Do not rush it. If you stretch like this daily, in time your leg will move further across your body and may come to rest on the floor on your opposite side.
Make sure you maintain a good stable stretch by keeping contact with the ground under your outstretched arm and shoulder.