Stretching Exercises for Lumbar
Published on: February 11, 2020

Published By: Southwest Physical Therapy

Stretching Exercises southwest healing

Strengthen your lower back with these 10 stretching exercises for the lumbar from Southwest Physical Therapy

Performing lower back exercises to strengthen your lower back helps ameliorate and prevent lower back pain. They help prevent other lower back problems and injuries by improving blood flow to the region and strengthening your lower back, leg, arm, and core muscles.

Southwest Physical Therapy and every expert will tell you, that the increase in blood flow to the lower back area from doing lower back exercises also speeds up the healing process and reduces pain and stiffness.

Below, Southwest Physical Therapy explains how to properly perform the 10 most popular and effective lower back exercises that help lower back patients manage their pain and strengthen and loosen their lower back:

1. Draw-in maneuvers

The draw-in maneuver works the transversus abdominis muscle. This muscle is on the front and side of the abdomen, stabilizing the spine and lower back region.

The draw-in maneuver is performed like so:

  • Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat, while keeping both arms by your sides.
  • Breathe in deeply.
  • While you breathe out, pull your belly button toward your spine, tightening your abdominal muscles and keeping your hips still.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat this stretch 5 times.

2. Lower back rotational stretches

The lower back rotational stretch helps relieve tension in the lower back and trunk. Stability improves as well because this stretch gently works the core muscles.

To perform the lower back rotational stretch:

  • Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
  • Keep your shoulders firmly on the floor and gently roll both of your bent knees over to one side.
  • Hold this position for 5–10 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Gently roll your bent knees over to the opposite side, hold this position for 5–10 seconds, and then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat this stretch 2–3 times on each side twice a day.

3. Knee-to-chest stretches

Tension and pain are relieved in your lower back when you do a knee-to-chest stretch because it elongates your lower back.

To perform a knee-to-chest stretch:

  • Lie on your back on the floor.
  • Bend your knees and keep both feet flat on the floor.
  • Use both hands to pull one knee in toward your chest.
  • Hold that knee against your chest for 5 seconds, keeping your abdominals tight and pressing your spine into the floor.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the same with the other leg.
  • Repeat this stretch with each leg 2–3 times twice a day.

4. Bridges

Bridges work the large muscle of your buttocks called the gluteus maximus. People engage this muscle when they move their hips, especially when they bend into a squat.

The gluteus maximus is one of the most important muscles in the body, and keeping it strong can help support the lower back.

To perform a bridge:

  • Lie on the ground and bend your knees, placing your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
  • Press your feet into the floor, keeping your arms by your sides.
  • Raise your buttocks off the ground until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Squeeze your buttocks with your shoulders remaining on the floor.
  • Lower your buttocks to the ground and rest for a few seconds.
  • Repeat 15 times and then rest for 1 minute.
  • Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

5. Partial curls

Strong abdominal muscles significantly support the spine and can also help keep the hips properly aligned.

Weak abdominals result in poor core strength and lack of stability, which generally leads to lower back pain. Curls and partial curls help build a strong core.

To perform partial curls:

  • Lie back on the floor and bend your knees, keeping your feet flat and hip-width apart.
  • Cross your hands over your chest.
  • Breathe in deeply.
  • On the breath out, engage your abdominal muscles by pulling your stomach in.
  • Gently raise your head and shoulders 2 inches off the ground while keeping your neck in line with your spine.
  • Hold for 5 seconds then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat this exercise 10 times.
  • Perform 3 sets.

6. Seated lower back rotational stretches

The seated lower back rotational stretch helps relieve pain, working the core muscles and strengthening the lower back.

To perform the seated lower back rotational stretch:

  • Sit on a stool or chair without arms, keeping your feet flat on the floor.
  • Twist at the core to the right, keeping your hips square and your spine tall.
  • Position your hands behind your head or place your left hand on your right knee to support this stretch.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat this exercise on the left-hand side.
  • Repeat on each side 3–5 times twice a day.

7. Supermans

People need strong back extensors to maintain good posture. These muscles run along either side of the spine.

Weak back extensors can reduce spinal and pelvic support. This exercise called a “Superman” can help strengthen your back extensors.

To perform a Superman:

  • Lie face down on the ground and stretch both arms out in front of your body, keeping your legs stretched out and flat on the ground.
  • Raise both your hands and feet, aiming to create a gap of about 6 inches between them and the floor.
  • Try to pull in your belly button, lifting it off the floor to engage the core muscles.
  • Keep your head straight and look at the floor to avoid neck injury.
  • Stretch your hands and feet outward as far as possible.
  • Hold this position for 2 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

8. Cat stretches

The cat stretch helps lengthen your back, make it stronger, and ease tension in its muscles.

To perform the cat stretch:

  • Get onto your hands and knees with your knees hip-width apart.
  • Arch your back, pulling your belly button up toward your spine.
  • Slowly relax your muscles and allow your abdomen to sag toward the floor.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 3–5 times twice a day.

9. Lying lateral leg lifts

Lying lateral leg lifts work your hip abductor muscles. These are the muscles that support your pelvis and can help reduce strain on your back.

Keeping these muscles strong is essential because they can affect mobility and they help a person maintain their balance.

To perform lying lateral leg lifts:

  • Lie on one side with your legs together.
  • Keep your lower leg slightly bent.
  • Draw your bellybutton into your spine to engage the core muscles.
  • Raise your top leg about 18 inches, keeping it straight and extended.
  • Hold this position for 2 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Turn onto the other side of your body and repeat, lifting your other leg.
  • Perform 3 sets on each side.

10. Pelvic tilts

The pelvic tilt exercise can release tight back muscles and keep them flexible.

To perform this lower back flexibility exercise:

  • Lie back on the floor with knees bent and feet flat, keeping your arms by your sides.
  • Arch your lower back gently and push your stomach out.
  • Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
  • Flatten your back and pull your belly button in toward the floor.
  • Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
  • Increase the number of repetitions daily, building up to 30.

You will start noticing the improvements very quickly, soon after you begin performing these stretching exercises on a daily basis. Performing exercises to work the core muscles can prevent injury, increase stability, and improve flexibility. 

People with lower back pain should also pay attention to their general posture and how they carry heavy objects to identify movements that may be responsible. Anyone experiencing lower back pain that is severe or does not go away with gentle stretches and exercise should make an appointment with a doctor ASAP.

If any of these back exercises make pain worse, it is vital to stop doing them immediately and consult a doctor.

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