Back pain can take an emotional and physical toll, but regular stretching or routines incorporating specific yoga poses can help. Stretching makes muscles more flexible and improves elasticity, which makes back muscles less likely to tear or cause pain. Many exercises aimed at back wellness also strengthen core muscles, which help by giving the back more support.
This stretch is quick and easy. It requires minimal movements, meaning it can be done almost anywhere, even in the car on the way to work or as part of a daily stretching routine. As the name implies, the neck flexion stretch targets neck muscles, helping relax the neck and spine and alleviating neck or upper back pain. To do this stretch, bring your chin slowly down to your chest while relaxing the shoulders. You can also perform a lateral flexion by bringing your ear to your shoulder. Never stretch too quickly. Movements should be slow to avoid strain.
The back flexion stretch is more intense than neck flexion and has the benefit of stretching more of the back. This stretch is performed lying down, preferably on a rug or other cushioned surface. To perform the back flexion stretch, lie down and bring your knees and chin toward your chest. This stretches the mid and lower back.
This yoga pose will strengthen the abdominal muscles that help support the back; a stronger core means less back pain. The pose also loosens the spine, neck, chest, and back muscles for more immediate relief. Bridge pose can help treat a variety of body pains and aches beyond the back, and even ease headaches and menstrual pain. Anyone with a neck injury should avoid this stretch. Find a comfortable spot on the floor. Keeping the chin tucked to keep the neck long, bend the knees, place the hands palm-down beside the heels, and slowly press through the feet to raise the seat off the floor.
Like bridge pose, the cat and cow poses loosen the spine, neck, and back muscles. These inverse motions are often done together to warm up the spine before a longer yoga sequence. In addition to improving posture and balance. Plus, the stretch goes all the way down to the hips to relieve sciatic nerve pain. Both stretches are done on hands and knees. For cat pose, lift the chest up, arching your back. Cow is the opposite. Drop your chest and belly toward the floor. Let the head come up, but do not tip the head back. Flow smoothly back and forth between the poses.
Like cat and cow, the kneeling lunge stretch loosens the hips, specifically the flexor muscles that attach to the hip bone. When these muscles become too tight, they impact posture, which in turn leads to back pain. The kneeling lunge helps loosen those muscles, relieving back and hip pain. The stretch is performed exactly as the name indicates. Kneel on the ground and bring one foot forward until the shin is at a 90 degree angle to the floor. Let the hips sink down and keep the gaze forward and the shoulders relaxed. Padding the back knee can prevent pressure or pain.
For back pain related to hip muscles, the piriformis stretch is another good option. It can be done in addition to cat and cow poses and the kneeling lunge. The piriformis are muscles in the inner thigh. Stretching them improves sciatica pain and loosens the hips. The stretch is performed on the floor and is also called reclined butterfly pose. Lie down with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Let your knees fall open with the soles of the feet together. Relax into the stretch.
This pose engages the entire spine, affecting muscles and tendons from the tailbone to the neck and relieving both upper and lower back pain. To do the supine twist, lie with the feet on the floor. Keep your knees together and lower them to one side. Look straight ahead (up) or turn your head in the opposite direction to deepen the stretch. Breathe deeply while you are in the pose, and then repeat it on the other side.
This yoga pose is slightly more intense than just stretching, but the payoff is worth it. Downward-facing dog stretches out the whole back and spine. It also engages the legs, which is great for the lower back. The intensity means it makes muscles stronger faster, so the back has more support. Stand with the feet together. Bend over and put your hands on the floor. Walk them away from the feet, until the body is in a V shape. Press the shoulders away from the ears, and try not to let the chest collapse toward the floor.
Child's pose is a good option for relieving pain in the lowest part of the back. This pose reduces pressure on the hips and sacrum, a bone that sits between the hip bones, and the associated sacral area. To get into this pose, kneel on the floor. Walk your hands out until your arms are all the way out in front of you, and your face is near the floor. Press your hips toward your feet. If having the arms out is hard on the shoulders, the arms can also lie alongside the shins.
This one is great for people who work in an office. Excessive sitting puts pressure on the sacral-lumbar arch, a spot on the lower back. The sphinx pose is easy to do and releases that pressure. To do sphinx pose, lie face down on your stomach. Bend the arms and place the palms under the shoulders. Gently push the torso off the ground, keeping the neck in line with the spine (not arching it up and back). Rest on the elbows.
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