One of the most common areas of discomfort that I hear from my clients is low back tension, especially in the winter. Between shoveling, trying to stay upright on the ice (or not), wearing heavy boots, and huddling to stay warm your back can get the brunt of it. Many of us have suffered from tension in our low backs ranging from stiffness to debilitating pain at some point in our lives. Low back pain can also be caused by injury, accidents, repetitive stress and/or poor posture. Massage is a great way to ease low back pain, strain, tension and stiffness. Stretching between sessions may help you recover faster and prevent reinjury. These simple 5 stretches address and target a few of the most common muscles groups that can contribute to pain in the low back.
When should I to stretch??
Listen to your body. If you tend to feel stiffness in your low back in the morning, then try doing these stretches right away when you get up or after a shower. If you work a desk job, then try doing these stretches during a break time or at the end of the day. Make a commitment to stretching for a couple minutes each day.
These foundational yoga poses are a great way to get gentle movement in your spine. Start on all fours and slowly arch your back like a cat (Cat Pose). Next slowly release your spine until it is flat (Cow Pose). You should not feel any pinching in your low back when doing Cow Pose. If you do, back off a bit and focus on pulling your tailbone away from your head to create extension in your spine instead of compression in the low back. Throughout the movement, focus on engaging your abdominal muscles.
lunge with a twist
Start in a lunge with your knee on the ground. Make sure that your bent knee is not in front of your toes. Your hands can either be on your bent knee or on the ground. Try to keep your spine as straight as possible. If this is enough of a stretch stay in this position. If you feel like you want more of a stretch, slowly twist towards the side of the bent knee. Place a hand on the bent knee leaving the other hand on the ground to stabilize.
hug your knees to your chest
Lay on your back. Bring both of your legs up to your chest. Wrap your hands around your knees and hug them into your chest. You can also do this with one leg at a time or make it into a dynamic stretch by hugging and releasing slowly and back again.
figure four on the ground
While laying on your back, cross one leg over the other at the knee. Wrap your hands around the back of your thigh. Gently pull that leg into your chest. The stretch may be felt in the hamstrings of the bent knee or more on the outside of the crossed leg.
hamstring stretch with a chair
This stretch can be particularly helpful to do if you sit a lot at work or are taking a long car ride. Stand in front of a chair. Bring one leg up so that the heel of your foot is resting on the seat of the chair. With a straight back, open chest and flexed foot slowly start to lean forward until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings and calf muscles. Hold for a couple seconds and release. You can go in and out of the stretch several times then switch legs.
*If you are in severe pain, I recommend seeking help from a healthcare professional. Please, always work within your comfort level when stretching.
Amy Daws is a trained Therapeutic Massage, Shiatsu, and Chi Nei Tsang therapist. She is interested in the way that these modalities can bring healing and joy to people's lives.