Lower Back Stretching Exercises


Stretching is a key component for a healthy back. Flexibility of the back is a cornerstone for stopping or controlling lower back pain. This article outlines a series of basic stretches for lower back health. These exercises are a few of the many that are available for people with lower back problems. They are meant to give you a basic routine that is effective and helpful for the long term. Lower back stretching is recommended before you began any aggressive lower back exercises.


Why Should Exercises Be Performed On A Regular Basis?


Regular exercise is essential for improving lower back strength and flexibility. An analogy for the benefits of regular exercise can be compared to the benefits of regular brushing of your teeth versus brushing once or twice a week. Placing yourself on a regular and scheduled program will produce satisfying results. Posture can be improved and muscle fatigue reduced. Fear of re-injury prevents people from being active. An effort to keep active within a comfort range is important for recovery. Movement, even with mild discomfort, should be continued as gentle activity is not harmful to the lower back.


What Are Precautions With Lower Back Exercises?


Exercises should be gradually instituted for the care of your lower back problem. Starting exercises too early may aggravate the inflamed joint. Performing exercises incorrectly can aggravate or possibly perpetuate the lower back problem that you are trying to improve and resolve. If one of the exercise protocols is painful, that exercise should be avoided and reinstituted in the exercise routine after 3 days. If there are still some problems, talking to your doctor or therapist may be necessary to make sure you are doing the exercise correctly.


What Type Of Problems Would Benefit From Stretching Exercises?


One of the most common lower back problems is the biomechanical dysfunction called facet syndrome. Activities or movements can easily aggravate this lower back condition. Stretching exercises are ideal for this common lower back problem.


Motion is important in recovery from all lower back injuries. Instituted at the proper time, stretching is a key component for the recovery of lumbar disc herniation and other lower back conditions. It is also important for maintaining good posture. An exercise break during your work day can be helpful in reducing muscular fatigue. Upper back stretches that can be done at work are found in a separate article on this website.


Lower Back Stretching Exercises


Lower back exercises train your back, stomach and leg muscles to stay well-aligned and strong. The following recommendations should be kept in mind while you exercise:
  • Breathe Normally


  • Clothes and Shoes – Wear loose fitting clothing and athletic shoes.

  • Towel and Pillow – These will be used during some exercises.

  • Increased Pain – Exercises that increase your pain and limit your motion should be discontinued and your health care practitioner should be consulted.

  • CAUTION – The following exercises are safe and helpful for most people with lower back pain from mechanical causes. If you have questions, contact your health care provider before you begin.
The following pictures demonstrate how to perform the stretches but should be done on both sides. Both sides of the body should be exercised for balance.


Stretching the Calf


  • Position yourself using the picture as a guide. Put one foot about 9-16 inches from the other foot, depending on your height. Bend the front leg but keep the feet flat on the floor. Hold for 25 seconds, do not bounce but begin the stretch slowly. Repeat each stretch 3-5 times.


Hamstring Stretch


  • This stretch helps you bend and walk. Lying on your back, flex the knee and gradually stretch the lower leg to straighten the leg (#1). It can also be performed by lying on your back with the back close to a door jamb and extending your leg up the door jamb stretching the hamstring muscle (#2). Gradually straighten the leg against the door jamb. Hold this for 20-25 seconds and repeat the exercise 3-5 times with each leg.

  • Gently pull the knee towards your chest. Hold for 20-25 seconds and repeat 3-5 times per exercise session. The back and hips should be flat on the floor.


Stretching of the Hip Flexor


  • Stretching these muscles help with pelvic and lumbar spine stability. Position one foot flat on the floor so the leg is placed out in front of the body. Tighten the stomach muscles and then move the pelvis and hips forward. The back and shoulders need to be kept straight. The stretch should be felt in the front of the thigh that is kneeling on the floor. Hold for 20-25 seconds and perform 3-5 times per exercise session.


Stretching Hip Rotators


The exercise is recommended for injury to the piriformis muscle.
  • Stretches the muscles around the hip joints to make it easier to walk up and down stairs and to squat down.

  • Lie on your back with a pillow under the neck for comfort. Use a towel around the thigh if you cannot reach up comfortably with your hands to hold the thigh.

  • Gently pull the knee towards your chest. Hold for 20-25 seconds and repeat 3-5 times per exercise session. The back and hips should be flat on the floor.


Stretching Knee-to-Chest


  • Stretches the lower back muscles that help to keep the lower back flexible.

  • Lie on your back with the knees flexed, keep one foot flat on the floor and lift the other with the knee flexed towards the chest. Hold onto the knee or place your hands behind the knee and stretch for 20-25 seconds, 3-5 times per exercise session.

  • After this has been done for two weeks, add pulling the knee towards the opposite shoulder for extra stretching.


Stretching the Quadriceps


  • Helps to lengthen the muscle so it is easier to go down stairs, to get up from the seated position and with lifting.

  • Hold on to a wall at arms length. Grasp the ankle with the knee flexed and stretch the anterior thigh by bringing the heel toward the buttock. Hold the stretch for 20-25 seconds performing 3-5 repetitions during each exercise session.

  • Keep your knees close together and your back straight.


These easy stretches will help you maintain flexibility and strength in the lower spine and the supporting muscles. Once per day is the goal for these stretches. If you have time for a second round during the day, all the better.


Pregnancy Stretches


Maintaining flexibility while pregnant will help reduce back pain. These stretching exercises can be helpful and starting to exercise as soon as you know you are going to have a baby will give the most benefit.



The doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office have experience in the care and treatment of lower back pain and exercise prescription.


Call today for an appointment! (763) 755-4300


The International Academy of Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine