10 Targeted Stretches To Alleviate Your Low Back Pain and Allow You To Have Improved Posture

Senior man having back pain

Many of us have had the following happen:

  • A quick “twinge” of pain in your low back from lifting something incorrectly;
  • Waking up one day with a sore back without any recollection of events to what may have brought on the pain;
  • Having a daily nagging feeling in your back that surmounts to excruciating pain with time;
  • Or even being debilitated by extreme back pain causing us to lie in bed.

Back pain of business person


Regardless of origin or intensity, back pain, which is further classified by either low or mid back pain, can manifest with different symptoms characterized by the nature of each individual’s medical history.


The purpose of this article is to delve into some of the causes of back pain, provide some background on the topic, and propose some general solutions.


Please remember to speak to your chiropractor if you have any specific concerns relating to your medical condition.


Symptoms of mid-back pain can range from a variety of different root causes, and are not limited to the following, but are often due to indirect pain also known as referred pain.


Such pain symptoms can be due to pre-existing conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, or a pinched nerve.


African Man Touching Aching Neck Suffering From Pain In The Morning, Standing Near Mirror In Bathroom At Home. Male Health Problems, Cervicalgia, Poor Posture And Headache Issue. Selective Focus


Even still, symptoms can simply be from pain originating from the mid-back referring to the shoulders, neck, or the jaw resulting in headaches or toothaches.


The most common site of back pain tends to be in the low back region.


While low back pain can easily be triggered and even subside on its own with rest, it is a complaint seen among myriad health care practitioners and can even be a reason for missing work.


Symptoms range from stiffness and/or a dull ache to more noticeable symptoms such as localized sharp, stabbing pains and/or a burning sensation further exacerbated by twisting, bending, lifting, walking, and even standing.


With severe cases, the pain can even travel down the leg(s) causing numbness and tingling in the toes.


Nonetheless, back pain at any level of the spine can also be a cause of previous injuries and trauma, from sports and/or motor vehicle accidents; or repetitive motions and bad posture from sitting is an ongoing concern for back health.


Tired business woman with back pain looking uncomfortable while working from home on laptop.


The average Canadian adult sits for almost 10 hours a day and faces the risk of negative impacts on their health, which can begin as something minor in concern like a blood clot in the legs and progress to more serious conditions such as decreased heart health.


Sitting for long periods of time daily is not only a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but also a risk for back pain at any level of the spine, due to poor posture.


In fact, rounded shoulders and neck strain from looking down repeatedly can inadvertently create tightness in the front of your ribcage, ultimately leading to undue stress and tension in the back through the rib joint tension.


Luckily, there are some safe and effective stretches and exercises you can do at home for a healthy back, while reducing headaches and improving circulation!


In addition, stretching and exercise can even increase energy levels and improve digestion.


All of these stretches and exercises are safe to do daily, and modifiable to individuals’ fitness levels.


Keep in mind that it is best to start stretches at the shoulders to release tension.


For more explanation for certain stretches and exercises, click on the video link.


Lastly, if you experience pain or have questions with any of the following stretches, please consult your doctor.

 

Upper Trapezius Stretch:

This stretch is most beneficial for desk workers to relieve any tension in the neck.


Sit or stand to start, with your head and neck straight.


With your gaze forwards, gently bring your right ear towards your shoulder.


Then use your right hand to gently press down on the left cheek.


Do not forcefully pull on your head, and ensure that your left shoulder has not lifted.


Hold this position and breathe for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.


Cat-Cow:

Try this stretch if you are feeling tightness in the chest, core, and/or upper back.

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It will also help relax the intercostal muscles that can become tense with sitting for long hours.


Floor Version:


Starting in tabletop position* (ie. on hands and knees with toes tucked, and a neutral spine), inhale deeply then drop your head, pull your belly button in towards your spine and tuck your tailbone under you.


Then exhale fully and lift your chin up, relax your spine, and turn your tailbone up towards the sky.


Repeat 5 times, coordinating your breath with the movement.

 

Seated Version:


Interlace your fingers behind your neck and as you inhale, push your elbows back, lift your chin and chest towards the ceiling.


As you exhale, hug your elbows in and round your back as you bring your chin down.


Repeat 5 times, coordinating your breath with the movement.


 

Side to Side Child’s Pose:

Use this stretch to help alleviate any tension felt in the low back.

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Kneel on a mat or stand in front of a chair to start.


Kneeling version:


Once kneeling, bring toes together with knees wide, sit back on your heels, lean forwards so that your forehead touches the floor and stretch your arms overhead with your palms on the floor.


Next, walk your fingers out to the right side and hold this position for 5 breaths; and then walk your fingers to the left side and hold this position for 5 breaths.


Then come back to an upright position.


Seated Version:


Set your chair arms length away from a surface that is about chest height just enough that your hands can be placed comfortably on top with your arms straight.


Then sitting on the chair, hinge at the hips and bend forwards and drop your head between your arms.


Next, walk your fingers out to the right side and hold this position for 5 breaths; and then walk your fingers to the left side and hold this position for 5 breaths.


Then come back to an upright position.



Seated Side-Bend:

A great stretch to improve mobility that will elongate the side of your hips and ribs, and a good one to sneak it while sitting at the office.

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Floor Version:

Sitting cross legged, sit up nice and tall, inhale deeply and reach straight up with your left arm.


As you exhale deeply, put your right palm on the floor and bend sideways towards the right as you reach over with your left arm, and lower yourself towards the right side as you support yourself.


Stay in this bent position for 5 breaths, then repeat on the other side.


Seated Version:

Sit in a chair next to a wall, positioning yourself so that your right shoulder is facing the wall, far enough that your right palm can press against the wall while keeping your right elbow bent.


Next, sit up tall in your chair, inhale, and reach up with your left arm and then exhale as you bend slowly and reach to the right.

Stay in this bent position for 5 breaths, then switch sides and repeat on the other side.


Hip Flexor Stretch:

Try this after sitting for durations as it will help relieve tension at the front of the hips and the low back.

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Floor Version:

Kneel on the floor to start and then bring your right leg in front of you so that both legs are at a 90 degree angle, ensuring that your right foot is flat.


Next, engage your core and glutes as you keep your upper body straight, exhale and slowly push your hips forwards as you bring your weight slowly forwards so that your right knee is over your big toe (you may have to readjust the right foot forwards at this point).


Your left leg should now be greater than 90 degrees and continue to keep your spine straight.


Do not bend backwards or forwards, nor rest your upper body on the right thigh.


Hold this stretch for 5 deep breaths on each side.


MODIFIED VERSION:

Stand next to a firm support for balance such as a countertop or couch, holding on with your right hand for support step back with your left leg, inhale and reach up.


Then exhale, and push your hips forwards and lean slightly back and reach towards the right side.


Hold this stretch for 5 deep breaths on each side.


 

Bird Dog:

A must do exercise for better posture, as it improves core strength and thus alleviates back pain.

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Start in tabletop position* (ie. on hands and knees with toes tucked, and a neutral spine), ensuring your shoulders and wrists create a straight line; and your knees are under your hips.


Engage your core, inhale and reach your right arm ahead and engage your left glute muscle to lift your left leg back, as you slightly tuck your chin towards your chest to lengthen your neck.


Hold this position for 2 second before exhaling and lowering your arms and legs back to tabletop position.


Repeat this on the opposite side – left arm ahead and right leg back.


Alternate sides and perform 5 repetitions per side.

 

MODIFIED VERSION:

Stand tall, facing the wall with your toes 1-2 inches away from the wall with a slight chin tuck to lengthen the neck, and reach up with both arms and rest your palms against the wall.


Maintain a neutral spine, inhale, and reach your right arm back and engage your left glute muscle to lift your left leg back.


Hold this for 2 second before exhaling and lowering your arms and legs back down.


Repeat this on the opposite side – left arm ahead and right leg back.


Alternate sides and perform 5 repetitions per side.


 

Forearm Plank:

Not only a fat burning exercise, but also another great exercise to improve posture and prevent back pain by strengthening the muscles of the spine.

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Start in tabletop position* on the floor, and lower yourself on to your forearms, ensuring that they are shoulder width apart.


Then stretch both your legs straight back so that your thighs are off the floor, feet together, and you are resting on your toes.


At this point, readjust yourself so that your elbows under your shoulders, engage your glute and core muscles, do a small crunch with your abdomen, pull your shoulder blades down, and slightly tuck your chin towards your chin to lengthen the neck and spine.


Hold this position for 20 seconds.


MODIFIED VERSION:

Find a wall, countertop or a sturdy base to comfortably rest your forearms flat such that your elbows make a straight line under your shoulders, and follow the same positional cues as a full plank outlined above.


Either lift up on to your toes for extra challenge or keep both feet flat on the floor to start and advance when you are ready.


The lower the surface, the more challenging it is.


 

 

Bridge:

Try this exercise to strengthen the glutes and the low back.

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Start by lying on a mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor with your palms flat on the floor.


Engage your core, exhale and then push through the heels as you engage your glutes to raise your hips as high as you can go.


Hold for 2 seconds and inhale as you lower yourself back down.


Repeat for 15 repetitions.



 

 

Seated Figure Four Stretch:

Another great you didn’t know you needed, and one you can sneak in at the office or do at home in front of the tv.

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This stretch will help stretch the hip, low back and glute muscles.


Sit nice and tall on a firm chair to start, and then cross your right leg so that your right ankle rests on your left thigh.


At this point you should feel a deep stretch along the back of the right thigh into the buttocks.


If not, ensure you are still sitting up nice and tall as you exhale and hinge forwards at the hips and press down on the right knee.


Whatever your depth is in this stretch, hold the position for 5 deep breaths, and then switch to the other side and repeat.

 


Thread the Needle

Will improve spinal mobility, as well as helping open up the chest, shoulders, and upper back.

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Starting in tabletop position* (ie. on hands and knees with toes tucked, and a neutral spine) with knees wider than hip width apart and hands narrowly placed under your shoulders, inhale deeply to reach the right arm up towards the ceiling by twisting at the trunk for a chest stretch.


Hold for 2 seconds, then exhale fully and “thread” the right arm (palm up) under the left arm until the right shoulder touches the floor (as you are threading the right arm under you may need to adjust your left hand to balance on your fingertips for full range of motion).


Hold for 2 seconds and repeat on the other side for a total of 3 repetitions per side.


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MODIFIED VERSION:

Stand facing a wall an arms length away.


Keep your shoulders relaxed and inhale and then exhale fully to thread” the right arm (palm up) under the left arm until the right shoulder touches the wall (as you are threading the right arm under you may need to adjust your left hand to balance on your fingertips for full range of motion).


Hold for 2 seconds and repeat on the other side for a total of 3 repetitions per side.


 

 

Superman:

Combat low back pain and prevent bad posture by engaging your upper and low back muscles.

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Lie face down on a mat to start and extend your arms above your head with your palms facing down, your legs extended behind, and keep your neck neutral with a small chin tuck.


Keeping your torso stationary, inhale as you try to lift your arms and thighs off the floor as high as your can, aiming for a “U” shape. Hold for 2 seconds before you exhale and lower your arm and legs back down. Repeat 5 times.

 

 

Shoulder Stretch:

Helps expand the ribcage by stretching open the shoulders and the chest. Stand or sit on a sturdy chair to start.

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STANDING VERSION:

Stand tall with you feet hip width apart, then hold your towel or strap firmly in both hands behind you.


Externally rotate your arms so that you turn your palms, elbows and biceps turn as far inwards as they go and gently try to pull apart the towel or band behind you, letting your upper back slightly arch while pushing your chest forward.


Hold this position for 5 deep breaths, before returning to a normal position. Then reset and try another two times.


Engage the shoulder blades for a deeper stretch.


SEATED VERSION:

Sit up nice and tall with a slight chin tuck then follow the same instructions for the stretch as the standing version.

 

 

Rag Doll:

Targets the back muscles while relieving tension in the neck. Start standing or seated in a firm chair.


STANDING VERSION:

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Stand tall with a slight chin tuck with your feet hip width apart.


With your knees slightly bent, slowly bow forwards and try to get your chest to touch your thighs.


Your arms can either hang by your feet or you can try to reach for opposite elbows as you hold this position for 5 deep breaths.


This version can also be used to stretch your hamstrings at the same time by slowly extending your knee.

 

SEATED VERSION:

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Sit tall in your chair with a slight chin tuck with your feet flat on the floor and then slowly bow forwards until your chest touches your thighs.


Your arms can either hang by your feet or you can try to reach for opposite elbows as you hold this position for 5 deep breaths.

If you do not feel the stretch, try to walk your hands further back past your feet.

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