10 Stretches to Get Rid of a Stiff Back

Back pain and stiffness can occur for many reasons. Maybe you lifted something too heavy or were hunched over a garden all morning. Usually the pain is not severe enough to require a doctor's care. According to the website SpineUniverse, most back pain will eventually disappear on its own. However, there are several stretches that can quicken the process, helping to relieve back stiffness and pain sooner.

A woman is stretching in her hotel room. (Image: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Arm side stretch

The AARP suggests doing arm stretches if you have a stiff back. To do them, stand with legs about shoulder-length apart. Face forward with the knees straight and loose. Keep the arms at your sides with the palms facing inward. Slowly raise your right arm as you bend to the left, keeping the palm pointed at the floor. As you bend, slide your left palm down the side of your leg. Face forward, keeping the head aligned with the spine. Hold this stretch for approximately five to 30 seconds. Repeat stretch on the other side.

Knee to chest

Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD, recommends knee-to-chest stretches to help rid the back of stiffness and pain. Start by lying on the back with the knees bent upward. With both hands, pull one knee up into your chest. Hold this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Return the leg slowly to the floor and repeat with the opposite leg. Hold for the appropriate time and then return this leg to the floor. Finally, grasp both knees and gently pull both legs into the chest simultaneously.

Cross-legged stretch

To do the cross-legged stretch, the AARP suggests lying on your back with your arms resting at your sides. Gently raise the left arm as you cross the left leg over the right leg, meeting at the knees. Stretch your head to the left slightly. Hold this position for about 5 to 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch on the right side.

Lower back rotation

The SpineUniverse website recommends this stretch because it helps release stiffness in the lower back and hips, making spine mobility and rotation easier. Lie on the back with your knees bent. Slowly bring legs to one side of your body, being sure to keep the knees together. Be sure that feet stay on the ground. Hold this stretch for three to five seconds. Squeeze the abdominal muscles while you work the legs over to the opposite side of the body. Repeat this exercise five to 10 times per side.

Reach and stretch

The AARP recommends standing straight with your feet shoulder length apart, arms at your sides. Slowly raise the arms to the sides of your head as you bend your knees slightly. Bring the hands together in front of you, touching palm to palm and hold stretch for five to 30 seconds.

Lower back flexibility

The lower back can be stretched by lying on the floor with your knees bent. Keep the feet and buttocks on the floor as you slowly arch your back. Aim the pubic bone toward your feet. Flatten the back, sucking your belly button toward the floor. This time your pubic bone should feel like it's pointing to your head. Hold stretch for five seconds, relax, and then repeat.

The bridge

To do the bridge, the SpineUniverse says to start on your back, hands at your sides. Bend the knees, but keep the feet flat on the ground. Gently lift the hips off the floor, squeezing the buttocks and hamstring muscles as you do so. Hold for three to five seconds. This stretch should be repeated 10 times.

Pelvic tilt

SpineUniverse also recommends the "pelvic tilt" to stretch out the lower back and spine. Lie flat on your back with knees bent toward the ceiling. With each exhalation, contract the abdominals, urging the belly button to move toward the floor beneath you. Flatten the lower back as you do this stretch. Release stretch after five seconds. Do 10 repetitions.

Cat stretch

To do the cat stretch, start on your hands and knees. Sag your back and belly toward the floor. Then slowly arch your back, tugging the abdomen toward the ceiling. Return to original position and then repeat.

Spinal twist

According to the AARP, a chair is needed for this exercise. Sit in a straight-backed chair with the feet resting on a short stool or even a book. Cross the arms over the chest. Keeping the stomach sucked in, gently twist your lower body to one side as far as it will go. Hold this for five to 30 seconds and repeat with the other side.

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