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Stretches for lower back pain

8 simple stretches to relieve lower back pain

At some point or another, most individuals experience lower back pain. Explore stretches, such as the knee-to-chest and supported bridge, that can aid in alleviating this discomfort.

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8 simple stretches to relieve lower back pain
Last updated on December 18, 2023, and last reviewed by an expert on August 13, 2023.

Yoga poses, and exercises such as the knee-to-chest and pelvic tilt can help alleviate lower back pain.

8 simple stretches to relieve lower back pain

Experiencing lower back pain can be intense and restricting.

Maintaining regular physical activity is arguably the best and most economical method to reduce or ward off this discomfort.

Consider these 8 easy stretches to ease lower back pain.

Lower back pain is common

Up to 80% of people experience lower back pain at one time or another.

Changes in the lumbar, or lower back, structure due to musculoskeletal damage are considered the primary cause. However, the origins of lower back pain can vary.

Your musculoskeletal system comprises muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues that provide form, support, and stability. They also enable movement.

Other muscles that play an essential role in maintaining the normal curvature of your spinal column are the hamstrings (located at the back of your thighs) and hip flexors. Tightness in these muscles may cause lower back pain.

Minor lower back pain usually gets better on its own within a few days or weeks. Lower back pain is considered chronic when it persists for more than 3 months.

In either case, staying physically active and regularly stretching can help reduce lower back pain or prevent it from returning.

This article provides eight stretches for lower back pain, all of which you can do in the comfort of your home with minimal or no equipment.

Summary: Lower back pain is a prevalent condition that can be relieved or prevented with regular exercise and stretching.

1. Knee-to-chest stretch

The knee-to-chest stretch can help lengthen your lower back, relieving tension and pain.

Illustration of how woman does the knee-to-chest stretch

To perform the knee-to-chest stretch:

  1. Lay down on your back, bending your knees and keeping your feet placed flat on the ground.
  2. With both hands, grip your right shin just below the knee, either intertwining your fingers or holding your wrists.
  3. Ensuring your left foot remains flat on the ground, gently draw your right knee towards your chest until a mild stretch is felt in the lower back.
  4. Keep your right knee pressed to your chest for 30–60 seconds, ensuring your legs, hips, and lower back are relaxed.
  5. Slowly let go of your right knee and revert to the initial position.
  6. Follow steps 2–4 for your left leg.
  7. Complete the sequence three times on each side.

To make this stretch more difficult, simultaneously bring your knees to your chest for 15–20 seconds. Do this 3 times, with each rep separated by 30 seconds of rest.

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Summary: Perform the knee-to-chest stretch by lying on your back, pulling, and then holding one or both knees to your chest.

2. Trunk rotation

The trunk rotation can help relieve tension in your lower back. It also works your core muscles, including your abdominals, back muscles, and the muscles around your pelvis.

Illustration of how woman does the trunk rotation

To perform the trunk rotation:

  1. Lay down on your back and pull your knees close to your chest, as if you’re seated in a chair.
  2. Stretch your arms out wide, placing your palms down on the ground.
  3. With your hands grounded and knees touching, gently swing your bent knees towards your right side, maintaining the position for 15–20 seconds.
  4. Return to the initial pose and shift your knees to the left side, holding for another 15–20 seconds.
  5. Do this sequence 5–10 times for each direction.

Summary: Perform the trunk rotation by keeping your knees together up toward your chest, gently rolling your knees to one side, and holding the position.

3. Cat-Cow

The Cat-Cow helps increase flexibility and ease lower back and core muscle tension.

Illustration of how woman does the Cat-Cow

To perform the Cat-Cow:

  1. Get onto your hands and knees with your knees hip-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Arch your back by pulling your belly button up toward your spine, letting your head drop forward. This is the cat portion of the stretch.
  3. Hold for 5–10 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch in your lower back.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Raise your head and let your pelvis fall forward, curving your back down toward the floor. This is the cow portion of the stretch.
  6. Hold for 5–10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat the Cat-Cow 15–20 times.

You can also perform this move in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your knees. This modification is a perfect way to sneak in a few stretches at work.

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Summary: Perform the Cat-Cow by arching your back for the cat pose, then letting your pelvis fall forward for the cow pose.

4. Seated hamstring stretch

Tight hamstrings are thought to be a common contributor to lower back pain and injuries. This movement stretches the hamstring muscles to relieve tightness and release tension in your spine.

Illustration of how woman does the seated hamstring stretch

To perform the seated hamstring stretch:

  1. Position yourself on the floor, extending one leg directly before you.
  2. Wrap a regular bath towel around your foot, right at the heel.
  3. Slowly lean forward from your hips, drawing your abdomen towards your thighs.
  4. With a straight back, use the towel to assist in pulling your abdomen nearer to your legs.
  5. Continue the stretch until you sense a gentle pull in your lower back and the rear part of your leg.
  6. Maintain the position for 10 seconds, take a 30-second break, and do this thrice.

You can increase or decrease the tension of this stretch by grabbing the towel closer to or farther away from your feet.

As you become more flexible over time, you can increase how long you hold the stretch or reduce the time between reps.

Summary: Perform the seated hamstring stretch by sitting on the floor with one of your legs extended, hooking a towel around the bottom of your heel, and gently pulling yourself forward.

5. Pelvic tilt

The pelvic tilt is a simple yet effective way to release tight back muscles and maintain their flexibility.

To perform the pelvic tilt:

  1. Begin by laying on your back, knees bent, and feet grounded. Place your hands near your head’s base, prepare for a situp, or let them rest beside you. This position will cause a slight elevation of your lower back due to your spine’s natural curve.
  2. Delicately create an arch in your lower back and protrude your belly, ensuring your core is stable.
  3. Maintain this position for a duration of 5–10 seconds, and subsequently release.
  4. Elevate your pelvis a bit, directing it towards the ceiling, and concurrently contract your abs and glute muscles. As you do this, your lower back should contact the floor, ensuring your pelvis remains grounded.
  5. Maintain this position for 5–10 seconds before letting go.
  6. Initially, aim for 10–15 repetitions daily and progressively work towards 25–30 repetitions.

Summary: Perform the pelvic tilt by flattening your back against the floor, tightening your abdominal and buttock muscles, and pushing your pelvis toward the ceiling.

6. Flexion rotation

The flexion rotation helps stretch your lower back and buttocks.

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To perform the flexion rotation:

  1. Position yourself on your right side, ensuring both legs are extended.
  2. Fold your left leg and tuck your foot behind your right knee.
  3. With your right arm, hold onto your left knee.
  4. Set your left hand at the back of your neck.
  5. Gradually twist your upper torso backwards until your left shoulder blade meets the ground. This motion should elicit a gentle stretch in your lumbar region.
  6. Perform this twisting action 10 times, pausing for 1–3 seconds during each stretch before gradually releasing.
  7. Mirror the actions from steps 1–6 but on your left side.

Summary: Perform the flexion rotation by bending one leg, hooking your foot around your other knee, and slowly rotating your upper body backward by touching your shoulder blade to the floor.

7. Supported bridge

A foam roller or firm cushion will perform the supported bridge. This move helps decompress your lower back through supported elevation.

To perform the supported bridge:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your hips and place a foam roller or firm cushion underneath them.
  3. Completely relax your body into the support of the floor and the foam roller or firm cushion.
  4. Hold for 30–60 seconds and repeat 3–5 times, resting for 30–60 seconds between sets.

Summary: Perform the supported bridge by positioning a foam roller or firm cushion underneath your hips and then relaxing your entire body.

8. Belly flop

Like the supported bridge, the belly flop decompresses your lower back through supported elevation. This time, you’ll use a rolled towel or blanket.

To perform the belly flop:

  1. Roll a towel or blanket lengthways, positioning it horizontally in front of yourself.
  2. Position yourself face-down atop the towel or blanket, allowing your hip bones to make contact with it.
  3. Let your body fully relax, and you can choose to turn your head to any side.
  4. Maintain this pose for a duration of 1–2 minutes. Do this 1–3 times, ensuring you take a break of 30–60 seconds between sessions.

Summary: Perform the belly flop by placing a rolled-up towel or blanket under your hip bones, lying front-side down, and relaxing your entire body.


A significant number of people suffer from lower back discomfort.

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Regular exercise and flexibility routines have been shown to alleviate and ward off recurring lower back discomfort.

Engaging muscles such as the abdominals and hamstrings through stretches can alleviate tension in the lower back. Techniques like trunk rotation, pelvic tilting, and the supported bridge are a few examples of alleviating persistent discomfort.

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