The muscles of the lower back include the erector spinae muscle group and the deep spinal muscles. Both of these muscle groups contribute to spinal extension, lateral flexion and rotation. You can stretch these muscles by moving your body through various ranges of motion. This may help prevent or treat low back pain, which up to 85 percent of people experience at some point during their lives, according to Susan Hall, author of "Basic Biomechanics."
Robin McKenzie, a physical therapist and author of "7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life," recommends this stretch to help treat low back pain. Stand upright with your feet about shoulders-width apart. Place your hands on your lower back with the fingers of each hand pointing toward each other and thumbs wrapped around your sides. Lean backward as far as possible without losing your balance. Extend your neck to look upward and behind your body. Hold for one or two seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise 10 times, trying to stretch slightly farther with each repetition.
Toe touches stretch the muscles that extend your spine through the opposite range of motion -- spinal flexion. Stand with your feet about hips-width apart and hands in front of your thighs. Bend forward at the waist, running your fingers down the front of your legs toward your feet. Round your lower back as you lean forward. Stop when you feel a gentle stretch through your hamstrings and lower back, and then slowly reverse back to the starting position. Perform six to eight repetitions, stretching slightly farther with each one so the final repetition brings your hands as close as possible to your toes.
This exercise stretches your lower back muscles through rotation in both directions. When you rotate to the left, the muscles on the right side of your lower back lengthen, and vice-versa. Performing the rotational stretch periodically throughout the day helps prevent lower back pain and stiffness, especially if you have to sit for long periods of time. Stand upright with your feet 6 to 12 inches apart. Cross your hands over your chest. While keeping your feet flat on the floor and hips facing forward, twist to the left until you feel tension through your lower back. Hold for 30 seconds. Breathe normally as you hold the stretch and try to twist slightly farther with each exhale. Return to the starting position, and then perform the exercise in the opposite direction.