The aim of this article is to talk about some important stretches for low back pain. I talked about Sciatic nerve pain as well as low back pain in my previous articles. In this article, I focus on combination stretching exercises to reduce sciatica pain as well as low back pain. The stretches below will help alleviate the pain on both left and right side. So let’s get started!!
Stretching exercises are necessary in many ways. An athlete needs to stretch his/her muscles prior and after any workout. A recreational player needs stretching to avoid any DOMS (Delayed onset of Muscle Soreness). A person who is exercising to gain muscle strength also needs to stretch the muscles after his exercise regime. A person suffering from injury or back pain stretches the muscles just to feel better. No matter what level a person is at for exercises, they need to stretch the muscles. Stretching is done for whole body and all muscles.
This is the most important stretch for low back pain, for leg pain, and for sciatica etc. You may have observed some of these positions at gym, after sports games, after a walk or run, etc. I included two different positions for this stretch so you can perform whichever you feel comfortable with. There are multiple other ways to stretch your Gastrocnemius and soleus muscle (fancy word for Calf muscles!)
Position: In long sitting position.
As shown in the picture below, pull a sheet of towel with both hands while keeping your knee straight in sitting position. You should feel a pull on calf muscles and behind the knee. If you lean forward from the waist, you should also feel stretch at Hamstrings. The pull should be bearable to you and not too aggressive that can damage the muscles. Remember, you are the one who is feeling the stretch so you are the best judge to decide its intensity!
Here is the second method. You can lean on to the wall, with unaffected leg stepping forward (knee bend) as you start leaning forward you feel stretch at hamstrings and calf muscles.
Frequency: Hold it for 30 to 45 seconds. New research supports that stretch can be held up to a minute to get its best effects. I usually leave it up to my patients. Sometimes, 30 seconds of good stretch is enough for a healthy individual. I also have patients who can hardly hold the stretch for 15 seconds. That is fine. Whatever they can bear with no pain!! Repeat it for three times.
2. Quadriceps Stretch
This is another very common stretch. I included three different position for this one.
While lying on your stomach, bend affected knee while holding the heel with your hand. Gently pull the heel towards the buttock. You can lift the knee up off of the floor/mat if you can. This will get into a little deeper stretch.
Position: You can perform the same stretching while in standing. You are basically doing the same movement here as well. You can kick your knee backwards if you want to get to that deeper stretch.
The another way of performing the same stretch is while lying down on unaffected side. Bend affected knee and pull the heel to back area and hold it.
Frequency: Hold it for 30 to 45 seconds for three times.
3. Low back Stretch
Position: Lie down your back on hard surface. Bend the affected side knee and cross it over, try to push the knee towards the floor with your unaffected hand as shown in the picture.
The key point while performing this stretch is your shoulder blade needs to be in touch with floor/mat (not come off of the floor – as it is very easy to do so). Also, the side of the knee which is bent, that is the side of back you are going to feel the stretch. You can reduce the amount of pressure you apply on your knee to modify the intensity of the stretch. Hold it for 30 to 45 seconds and repeat it for three times.
This is the another way of performing the same stretch. While sitting, bend the affected knee and cross it over. With the help of unaffected side elbow, try to push the knee in and back (towards the opposite side). You can rotate the neck (look to other side) to feel stretch up to middle back.
Hold it for 15 to 20 seconds and repeat it for 3 times.
4. Back Extension Stretch
This is very important stretch for back pain, disc prolapse, sciatic nerve etc. There are few variations and different degrees of it depending on person’s ability and endurance level.
Position: Lie down on your stomach on a firm surface. Keeping your hands on shoulder level, push down on the floor while trying to lift your upper body up. You should feel some stretch on lower and middle back. You can stop in the top second position if you want or try to come all the way as shown in last picture. So in this picture, first position is a starting position. Your aim is to progress to fourth position with no pain
Hold it for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat it for 3 times.
5. Knee to Chest Stretch
Position: Lie down on your back on firm surface. Bend the affected knee and bring it to chest gently. You should feel pull on lower back and buttock area. You can stop when you feel a comfortable stretch. It is ok if your knee does not get all the way to chest.
Hold it for 20 seconds and repeat it for 3 times.
6. Lat Dorsi Stretch / Child Pose:
This is my favorite position. You can feel really good stretch on both sides of upper and middle back. The key is to lower your buttock area on heels and stretch your fingers as if you are trying to reach further. This will take you into a deeper stretch.
Hold for 30 to 45 seconds and repeat it for 3 times.
7. Pigeon Pose:
This is a really good Sciatic nerve stretch. I kept this is at last (even though it stretches the nerve the most) because I do not want to scare anyone away!!
So how to get into the pigeon position? The easiest way for me to get into this position, is to start on all fours. Like a quadrupole position, or position where you do your cat and camel exercises, or baby crawling position. Form there, bring your right foot forward towards left pelvis. Drop your left knee down and left toes down in long position. Try to walk your right foot all the way to left side – or till you can feel a stretch in hip area. You can stop here if you feel a stretch.
If you want to go further, walk your both hands towards your right leg and lift your chest. Ahhh.. Yes, I know you are going to feel that. Hold on to 7 to 10 seconds or whatever you can do. I usually don’t repeat this as one deep stretch is good for me.
So that is it for all main stretches. I used affected side to make it little simple for everyone to understand. You can repeat this all stretches to both sides. In fact, I recommend you to repeat the stretches both sides just for equality of muscle length!! (yes,equality is important even for two sides of the body too!!)
I hope this helps to reduce pain. Have fun with all this positioning!!