Back pain has become a serious problem. According to the Global Burden of Disease (2017) low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. In the US approximately 80% of Americans will experience a back problem at some time in their lives (3). What shocks me the most is that most cases of back pain are considered mechanical- meaning that these problems are not caused by serious conditions like arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer but by improper body mechanics like poor posture and lifting, and repetitive strain injuries like smart device usage (6).
The good news is that most acute back pain can be prevented by exercising regularly, keeping muscles flexible, improving body mechanics and maintaining a healthy lifestyle (6).
Why your low backs hurt
No doubt people begin to lose flexibility as they get older. However I don’t think your actual numerical age is to blame here. I think inflexibility is tethered to the idea that as we age we have had more time to gain weight, get injured and accumulate a gross amount of hours of sitting, usings smart devices and lifting improperly.
You don’t need to know about the science of the body to see that most adults aren’t standing in a vertical line and have adopted a hunched over, protruding head and rounded shoulder posture. This new “normal” or “text neck” is putting a lot of undue stress on the neck, spine (disks and nerves) and lower back muscles and can be the catalyst for many other problems.
Unfortunately, most people write off their low back pain as a function of aging. As long as there is no structural damage (please consult with your doctor before engaging in any exercise program) I stand by the cliche of “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” and that you can do many things to correct your body's structure and movement.
Stretching is an effective way to relieve acute back pain
Your body is brilliant and adaptable. It will do just about anything you ask, no matter how compromised it is. But, there is a compromise. The fact that humans have two legs means that our bodies are constantly at war with gravity. And to stay healthy, happy and functioning optimally our bodies have to assume a vertical position and maintain proper range of motion and flexibility throughout all of the muscles and joints. One wrong move and gravity pulls us out of our happy place and causes misuse and overuse mischief throughout the body.
Without you knowing it your brain and body start to reinforce these maladaptive positions and now specific muscles and connective tissues get overworked and stuck in shortened and long positions.
Stretching is one of the recommended solutions by the NIH to help relieve acute back pain.
I hope by now you are starting to see how decades of misuse could be the cause of your lower back pain. And that if you add stretching to your daily routine now you too can help relieve your lower back pain.
The 3 Best Low Back Pain Stretches
Here are our three favorite low back pain stretches with instructional videos to boot.
Side Lying T Rotation
Description- this stretch will help you stretch your back and open up your spine muscles
Instructions- Complete 2 sets of 5 reps on each side
Description- this stretch will help you stretch your hip and back muscles at the same time
Instructions- Complete 2 sets of 5 breathes on each side
Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Description- this stretch will help you stretch the front half of your hip
Instructions- Complete 2 sets of 30 second holds on each side
**Please note that the goal with these three low back pain stretches is to complete them long enough to...
Feel better (discomfort decreases)
Increase your range of motion (your tight muscles and joints start to relax and open up)
If you need to add more reps, more breathes or more seconds to each stretch, please do so.
We hope that these three stretches will help you relieve your lower back pain. If you are interested in learning more about how to overcome your lower back pain check out our blog and our lower back pain programs.
1. Jensen M, Brant-Zawadzki M, Obuchowski N, et al. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People Without Back Pain. N Engl J Med 1994; 331: 69-116.
2. Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.
3. Sayre, C. (2013) 12 Ways to Improve Back Pain. [Online] Available from: https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/features/12-back-pain-tips [Accessed 12 February 2019]
4. In Project Briefs: Back Pain Patient Outcomes Assessment Team (BOAT). In MEDTEP Update, Vol. 1 Issue 1, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville, MD.
5. Time to recognize value of chiropractic care? Science and patient satisfaction surveys cite usefulness of spinal manipulation. Orthopedics Today 2003 Feb; 23(2):14-15.
7. Global Burden of Disease 2017: http://www.healthdata.org/sites/default/files/files/policy_report/2019/GBD_2017_Booklet.pdf