Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In fact, it is estimated that as much as 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point. Not surprisingly, we receive countless questions from followers of Exercises For Injuries asking us how to relieve and eliminate back pain. Often, back pain and inactivity can become a vicious cycle. When your back hurts, movement can be uncomfortable and painful, and you most likely avoid activity. Unfortunately, being sedentary usually makes back pain worse, making you even less likely to exercise or stretch. The yoga-based stretches in this article are gentle and accessible to help you get some relief from your back pain. Always move through the stretches at your own pace and intensity. You know your body best.
Yoga is a wonderful way to address back pain. The focus in yoga is generally on the breath, so let your breath guide you. If you can take full, deep breaths, you are probably in a safe position. If your breath is constricted, you have moved too far into a stretch and need to back off a bit. Taking deep breaths will also help relax your body, allowing your muscles to let go and release. Yoga is all about meeting yourself where you are without judgment. There is never a need to move into a posture that doesn’t feel right in your body, so listen to your body and adjust where you need to. Modifications are given for each stretch to progress them or make them easier, so there are lots of options for you.
Go through each stretch once and see how your back feels. If it feels better, go through the recommended sets and repetitions of each exercise. If it feels worse, you may have overdone it. Come back to these exercises the following day or whenever you are feeling better, and try easing into them. Sometimes, your back just needs some very gentle movement to start to recover.
Let’s move into the stretches. Make sure you have a comfortable surface such as a yoga mat, exercise mat, carpet or rug. You could also do these stretches from your bed.
1. Knees to Chest
The knees to chest stretch is a great way to give your lower back a release. When you are sitting or standing, your lower back is holding up the weight of your upper body. This position gives your back a much-needed opportunity to relax.
Begin by lying on your back. Pull your knees in towards your chest as close as is comfortable. Hold on wherever you can reach, either behind your knees or on your shins. Pull your knees in towards you to stretch your hips and release your lower back.
Perform 3 repetitions of 20 seconds.
Modifications: To make this exercise more accessible, wrap a strap around your shins or the backs of your thighs and hold onto the strap. To intensify the stretch, gently rock side to side or front to back, massaging your low back and changing up the stretch in your hips.
Cat cow is an amazing way to loosen up the spine and get some movement in the joints between the vertebrae.
Begin on all fours, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As you inhale, drop your belly down and lift your chest and tailbone, arching your spine. On your exhale, press away from the floor and round your spine, looking at your thighs. This is considered one repetition. Move as far into the two positions as you comfortably can.
Perform 3 sets of 5 repetitions.
Modifications: To make this exercise easier, make only slight movements with your spine, moving with your breath. To intensify the stretch, add in other movements, such as moving your torso side to side or in circles. Get creative and move intuitively, going where it feels good in your body.
This traditional yoga pose strengthens your back. When you have back pain, it is important to both stretch and strengthens your muscles. Cobra is a great way to gently build strength in the back of the body while also opening up the chest and shoulders. This makes it a great posture for your posture as well.
Begin by lying on your belly with the tops of your feet on the floor. Place your elbows under your shoulders with your forearms and palms on the floor. Roll your shoulders down your back. Press into the tops of your feet and your forearms, gently pulling your chest forward and arching your spine. There should be no pain or compression in your lower back.
Perform 3 repetitions of 20 seconds.
Modifications: To make this exercise easier, slide your forearms further forward so your elbows are in front of your shoulders. This will take the stress off of your back. To intensify this exercise, really engage your core and think about lifting your chest forward and up, activating your entire body.
4. Figure 4
Figure 4 focuses on stretching the hips and glutes. Both the hips and glutes are well connected to the lower back, and if you are tight in these areas, chances are you will acquire back pain. Stretching out your hips is essential for releasing tension in your back and reducing pain.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your right ankle over your left knee. Flex your right foot back towards your shin to protect your knee. From here, press your right knee away from you, looking for a stretch in the hip and glute area. If this isn’t enough of a stretch, grab behind your left knee and pull your leg towards your chest, deepening the stretch.
Perform 3 repetitions of 20 seconds on each side.
Modifications: To make this exercise easier, when you place your ankle on your knee, leave your other leg further outstretched. This will reduce the stretch in your hip and glute. To intensity the stretch, as you pull your left leg towards you, use your elbow to press your right leg away from you. This will keep your hips square and deepen the stretch.
Send yourself some gratitude for showing up for yourself and doing the work to feel and move better. If you have questions or need some help, make sure to reach out to our support team at [email protected]. I hope these yoga stretches were helpful and brought you some relief.
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