Oh my aching back! Next to the skin and joint disorders, back pain is the third most frequently reported reason given for people to see a doctor in the United States.
In fact, statistics show that 75-85% of Americans will experience some type of back pain. Perhaps more frustrating than the frequency of this type of pain is the variety of reasons for getting back pain.
It could come from sitting too much, but you also might experience back pain from standing too much. It could be from a sedentary lifestyle, but it could also be from too much high impact exercise.
Back pain can be such a mystery, but the relief for back pain isn’t quite so mysterious. Let’s take a look at some of the causes for back pain and, more importantly, a tried and true way to get relief!
Causes of A Tight, Aching Back
Exercise is good for you. However, some exercise can cause problems.
When it comes to back pain it is a good idea to take a closer look at your workouts and make sure they are right for you. Specifically:
Impact: If you do lots of jumping and impact exercise, that deserves a look. It can cause wear and tear on your lumbar as well as causing tightness in your hamstrings and glutes leading to pain.
Form: If you perform lots of squats and lunges (especially with heavy weights) and you are doing them wrong, you are going to end up in pain. Poor form can wreak havoc on your spine. Make sure a trainer takes a look at your exercise form at some point to be sure.
Stretching: If you exercise frequently but don’t spend enough time on back stretches, you definitely need to re-think your plan; especially as you get older! Tight hamstrings, glutes, and hips can all pull on the muscle and connective tissue surrounding your spine and cause pain.
2. Sitting Too Much
While exercise may pose problems for your back, a sedentary lifestyle is even worse.
Sitting – especially sitting with poor posture – wreaks havoc on your spine. This puts pressure on your discs, joints, and muscles. Sitting is a major culprit of lower back pain.
3. Age-Related Degeneration
So 50 is the new 30? While that might work for our energy or the color of our hair, there are simple facts that come with aging that cannot be changed.
One of these facts is that our bones and tissues are degenerating. The natural “shock absorbers” called discs that cushion the spine can lose moisture.
The vertebrae can move and press against nerves. Stenosis can occur when your spinal cord canal narrows.
Things happen as we age but a good stretching program like the one provided below can help alleviate much of the discomfort you might feel.
4. Lack of Flexibility
When your muscles are tight, your body can hurt.
A lack of flexibility can cause tugging and pulling in one area that actually expresses the pain in a completely different spot.
For instance, when the muscles in your hips are tight, they pull on the lower back because that is where they are attached. So while you feel your lower back, the problem is stemming from a different spot.
Related: How To Regain Flexibility After 50
Benefits of Stretching for Upper and Lower Back Pain
With all of those reasons given for back pain, you might be feeling a bit defeated by now. So here is the good news you’ve been waiting to hear! There is a solution for most of you.
It’s called stretching! Study after study shows that things like yoga and a regular stretching routine provides relief to most people who experience low back pain and stiffness no matter the cause.
More than that, talk to anyone who practices yoga or stretches regularly and they will give you all of the anecdotal evidence you need!
Just remember that the key to relieving lower back pain with stretching is regularity. To get real relief, you can’t try stretching once or twice and expect change.
It is important to get a stretch routine in place that you can do. That’s why we developed one for you that is simple, painless and short enough to do every day if you can make the time.
Back Stretches to Relieve Pain and Tension
The following are some of the best stretches for your back. We recommend you stretch often, up to several times a week. As you work on your back muscles, the stretches in this program will become easier and your flexibility will improve.
- Begin on your hands and knees with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips.
- Start with your spine in a “neutral” or long position, then slowly tuck your tailbone and lower the crown of your head so your back gently rounds into cat pose. Focus on feeling engagement in your lower back. Breathe.
- Return your spine to a neutral position, then gently lift your heart and tailbone so your back gently curves downward.
- Be sure to focus on the lifting – do not press your back downward. Let the curve happen naturally.
- Look slightly upward with a relaxed neck and breathe gently. Repeat from the beginning.
2. Seated Spinal Twist
How to do a seated twist:
- Sit on the floor with legs extended out in front of you.
- Cross your right foot over your left leg as near to the hip as you can.
- Wrap your left arm around your right knee and pull it toward your body. Slightly twist to the right. This stretch is felt in the lower back muscles.
- Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.
Seated spinal twists can help you stretch your piriformis, the muscle that sits deep into the hips just behind your hip bones. This is an excellent stretch for lower back pain.
3. Modified Down Dog
How to do modified down dog stretches:
- Face forward toward a chair and bend down with feet flat on the ground placing both hands onto the chair.
- Press through your hands as you gently pull your chest towards your thighs and your heels towards the floor.
4. Butterfly Pose
How to do butterfly pose:
- The starting position for butterfly pose is seated and then you bring the soles of your feet together to touch.
- Clasp hands around feet and gently bring your chest forward and down until a stretch is felt in your low back.
- Hold and breathe for 30 seconds.
Today, more than ever people are working from home, crunched over their keyboards. Loosening your back muscles regularly through stretching can help ward off lower back pain. Stretching has also been shown to increase endorphins and serotonin, so the mood-boosting benefits alone are worth tackling a few stretches every day. Even if you can only afford 10 seconds of stretching between Zoom meetings, try out one of these stretches and build up to more.
Want more relief from back pain and score muscles? Follow along with this video in which Chris Freytag demonstrates several helpful low back stretches and tools for low back pain relief.