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Lower back pain exercises and stretches you can do at home.

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

Lower back pain exercises 1
Lower back pain

In my last post, we covered common causes of lower back pain, but ones which may have surprised you (read more here). Now that you’ve worked on some bigger picture items and your back is feeling better, let’s get into some exercises and stretches you can do to ease your body's crankiness.

The exercises and stretches we're going to use, include self-massage techniques, Ki-Hara resistance stretching and strengthening exercises.

Self-massage techniques

Self-massage techniques are good for calming the nervous system down, increasing vagal tone and relaxing the muscles. When self-massaging, inducing a pain response isn't the goal. You want to go to the point of tenderness, but not out-right pain. If you reproduce pain, it sends a signal to the brain that it's normal. We don't want pain to be the norm. We're trying to get the opposite! Go to the entrance of the pain cave, but do not enter. (To learn more about this, The Role Model by Jill Miller is a great book to read).

While self-massaging, a few tips to get the most out of it:

1. Hold on a spot until you feel the tenderness subside.

2. Hold on a spot and move a body part, for example foot circles, bend the leg, etc.

3. Move in multiple directions, like rolling, rocking or twisting.

Ki-Hara resistance stretching

In my opinion, the type of stretching that is most effective and lasting is called Ki-Hara resistance stretching. This technique is an active stretching technique which uses force to change tissue. Ki-Hara uses eccentric contractions while lengthening the muscle to produce change. This, in essence, is strength training. We know strength training is something that is effective and lasting, so with eccentrics as a foundation, Ki-Hara resistance stretching can provide more benefits than classic stretching techniques. (For more in-depth studies, reference Yoga Biomechanics: Stretching Redefined by Jules Mitchell).

Some tips for Ki-Hara resistance stretching:

1. Start in the stretched position.

2. Apply force (usually by pushing into something or using your hand) to activate or "turn on" the muscle being stretched.

3. While lengthening or stretching the muscle, it's very important to maintain tension the entire range of motion.

Strengthening exercise

This one traditional exercise is probably the most functional exercise you can do. It's weight bearing and strengthens the side of the hip (an often weak muscle). This muscle should be activated during every step you take. If it's weak, other muscles may do the work which often end up being lower back muscles). This exercise mimics walking since every time we take a step foward, we are balancing on one leg until the other foot strikes. So it's critical that this muscle can work properly while we are standing (weight-bearing) and why it's better than lying exercises that work the same muscle.

The routine

The more often you do these techniques, the better your response will be. So 10-minutes a day, is far more effective than 60 minutes a week. But then again, a little is better than nothing, so just start somewhere!

Top 7 exercises and stretches for lower back pain:

  • Place the Coregous ball on your side and drape your body over it.

  • Take a few breaths in this position.

  • Rock forward and back to massage the sides of the body and lower back area.

  • Can be completed every day.

  • Watch a video here.

  • Place foam roller to one side and above knee.

  • Roll back and forth 1/3 way up the thigh.

  • Stop rolling and rock side to side.

  • Then kick your foot towards your butt several times.

  • Repeat up the leg. Switch legs.

  • Can be completed every day.

  • Watch the video here.

  • Place the double balls into the lower back area, staying on your forearms.

  • Roll the balls up and down the lower back.

  • Pause at spots and move legs side to side.

  • Can be completed every day.

  • Watch the video here.

  • Come into a kneeling lunge with one foot on the couch/wall (you can add cushion under the foot/knee). Placing the knee farther away from the wall is less intense.

  • "Kick" into the wall to activate the front of the thigh by moving forward. Repeat 3 times.

  • Keep pushing the foot into the wall while moving back. You will feel an active stretch down the front of the thigh. Do 3 times.

  • Switch sides and repeat. Can be completed every 2 days.

  • Watch video here.

  • Come into a kneeling lunge with one foot slightly in front of the knee.

  • Press your foot into the ground and pull your body forward using the back of your thigh (hamstring). Repeat 3 times.

  • Keep pressing the foot into the floor while moving the hips back. You will feel an active stretch down the back of the thigh. Do 3 times.

  • Switch sides and repeat. Can be completed every 2 days.

  • Watch the video here.

  • Coming into a seated position, place one arm above the head and grab the elbow with your other hand (like you're stretching your triceps). Start in a stretched position by moving your elbow towards your opposite knee.

  • Using pressure, push your elbow into your hand to lift back up. Do 3 times.

  • Keeping the tension between the elbow and the hand and move back down towards the knee for the active stretch.

  • Repeat 3 times. Can be completed every 2 days.

  • Stand with your feet even and more weight towards your heels.

  • Place your right hand on your right hip. This is the hip you are working.

  • Using your hand to direct the movement, push into the floor with your right foot and press the hip down so that the opposite hip starts to lift from the action of the right hip.

  • Keep the working leg straight. Repeat 15-20 times. And then hold in the up (contracted) position for 10 sec. You should feel a burn in the side of the right hip.

  • If you do not, check your weight on the feet. You may need to shift back.

  • If you feel the left or right back muscles working instead of the side of the hip, keep the non-working leg bent with your toes gently touching the ground. Now use smaller movements to get the working hip to "turn-on"

  • Make sure you don't lean into the movement. The movement is straight up and down.

  • Switch sides and repeat.

  • Watch the video here.

These moves are just the beginning of getting your back healthier. For more comprehensive lower back stretches, check out my new program! It comes with guided videos, a cheat sheet, text reminders for accountability and options for a one-on-one postural assessment and coaching with me! It can be completed in 30 minutes or broken into 10 minute segments. The MastroStretch Lower Back Pain Stretch Program is designed to get to help you feel better and have a lasting effect.

For more information, click here.

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