If you've ever struggled to pick up something off the floor or to turn around when backing out of the driveway, then you can appreciate the importance of the flexibility in your lower back.
The lumbar spine, which is made up of five separate vertebrae and lined by a variety of muscles, is capable of many different spinal motions. While age-related degeneration may cause some spinal stiffness, the culprit may also be muscular tightness. Try these static stretches, in which a tight muscle group is pulled and held in a lengthened position, to help improve your back's flexibility.
Knee to Chest Stretch
The knee to chest stretch is a gentle, yet effective way to stretch out the extensor muscles in the low back. It's an easy exercise to perform before getting out of bed in the morning.
How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Grab both knees and slowly bring them towards your chest until your butt lifts slightly off the ground and a stretch is felt in your lower back. Hold this position for 30 seconds before lowering your legs back to the floor again.
Prone press-ups help to improve extension or back bending in your lumbar spine.
How To: While lying on your stomach, place your hands beside each of your shoulders. Press down through your hands and raise your upper body off the ground until your navel clears the floor. Make sure your hips stay in contact with the ground and your butt muscles stay relaxed throughout the stretch. After maintaining this position for 30 seconds, lower your body back down again and relax.
The child's pose, also known as as Balasana in yoga, is a fantastic way to stretch out the erector spinae muscles that line your vertebrae and help to extend your spine.
How To: Kneel on the ground and place your palms on the floor in front of you. Sit your buttocks back towards your calves and slowly slide your palms forward on the ground. When a stretch is felt in the lower and middle back, hold the pull for 30 seconds before releasing it.
This static stretch improves lumbar rotation and makes everyday twisting motions easier to perform.
How To: Lie on your back with your knees bent and bring your feet and knees together. Then, slowly lower your legs towards the ground on the right side of your body. When a pull is felt in the left side of your lower back, maintain the stretch for 30 seconds. Next, reverse the exercise and repeat it by lowering your legs to your left side.
Wall Extension Stretch
This exercise is a great option for individuals who are unable to lie on their stomach, but who want to focus on lumbar extension.
How To: Stand an arms-length away from a wall and place your palms against it at shoulder level. Without allowing your elbows or knees to bend, slowly move your pelvis forward as your low back gently extends. Make sure to stay in a pain-free range as you do this. When you are unable to move your waist closer to the wall without bending your arms or legs, hold the position for 30 seconds before releasing it.
Seated Posterior Stretch
This exercise provides a gentle way to stretch the extensor muscles in the low back. It's ideal for less-mobile individuals who are unable to get onto the floor to stretch.
How To: Sit at the edge of a chair with your legs held wide and your feet on the floor. With one hand on top of the other, slowly reach towards the ground and allow your head to drop down. When you feel a gentle pull in your lumbar region, hold the stretch for 30 seconds. If you reach the ground and do not feel a pull, the exercise can be progressed by slowly sliding your hands forward while keeping them in contact with the floor.
To improve spinal flexibility, each perform each 30 second static three times per week. While decreased spinal movement may be caused by something simple like muscular tightness, more serious conditions may also be to blame. If limitations in spinal mobility are accompanied by pain, numbness or tingling in the extremities, loss of strength or incontinence of the bowel or bladder, these symptoms should be reported to your doctor immediately.