7 of the Best Stretches for a Tight, Stiff Back

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You can get a stiff back from sitting all day or sleeping on a bad mattress.
Image Credit: LENblR/iStock/GettyImages

Feeling a little pinch in your lower back after sitting at your desk for hours or some lower-back pain when you wake up in the morning? Back pain is the leading cause of disability around the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so you're certainly not alone.

While you'll want to see a qualified professional for help with pain, you can address a stiff back at home with gentle stretching.

Incorporate these lower-back stretches from Samuel Becourtney, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York, into your weekly workout routine to help relieve your stiff, tight back.

Move 1: Tail Wag

Move 1: Tail Wag
Image Credit: Samuel Becourtney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Time 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Start on all fours in a tabletop position with your shoulders over your wrists, your hips above your knees and your back in a neutral position.
  2. Gently move your hips toward the right, drawing your right hip to your right side.
  3. Pause here for a moment.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

Move 2: Prone Hamstring Stretch

Move 2: Prone Hamstring Stretch
Image Credit: Samuel Becourtney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Time 1 Min
Type Flexibility
  1. Lie face-up on an exercise mat with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Pull your right thigh up toward your chest with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Straighten your leg until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh.
  4. Hold this stretch for one minute before switching to the opposite leg.

Tip

Point the toes of your elevated foot toward your body to add a calf stretch element, Becourtney says.

Move 3: Prone Press Up to Elbows

Move 3: Prone Press Up to Elbows
Image Credit: Samuel Becourtney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Time 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Start by lying flat on your stomach with your legs extended behind you and your arms in front of you.
  2. Keeping your lower body relaxed and rooted into the ground, prop yourself up on your elbows.
  3. Stretch your torso up slowly.
  4. Lower your torso back down and repeat.

Move 4: Knee to Chest Stretch

Move 4: Knee to Chest Stretch
Image Credit: Samuel Becourtney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Time 15 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Lie face-up on an exercise mat with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. With both hands, pull your left knee toward your chest, bracing your abs, and hold this stretch for five seconds.
  3. Return to the starting position by extending your leg long.
  4. Draw the right knee toward the chest, holding for five seconds.
  5. Return to the starting position.
  6. Draw both knees toward the chest at the same time and hold for five seconds.
  7. Repeat this whole sequence.

Tip

Try to keep the small of your back glued to the ground as you perform this stretch, Becourtney says.

Move 5: Lower Trunk Rotation

Move 5: Lower Trunk Rotation
Image Credit: Samuel Becourtney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Time 10 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Lie face-up on an exercise mat with your knees bent and feet planted on the ground.
  2. Keeping your shoulders rooted to the ground, roll your bent knees to the right as far as is comfortable.
  3. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

Tip

"The goal is to keep your opposite shoulder blade pinned to the floor as your knees rock in the opposite direction," Becourtney says. "As soon as your shoulder blade lifts off the floor, you lose the dissociation between the lower body and torso that is necessary to maximize this movement."

Move 6: Cat-Cow Stretch

Move 6: Cat-Cow Stretch
Image Credit: Samuel Becourtney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Time 1 Min
Type Flexibility
  1. Start on all fours in a tabletop position with your shoulders over your wrists, your hips above your knees and your back in a neutral position.
  2. Slowly round your back as if you're pulling your bellybutton toward the ceiling.
  3. Pause here for a few moments.
  4. As you exhale, arch your back and sink your abdomen toward the ground.

Move 7: Seated Lower Back Rotational Stretch

Move 7: Seated Lower Back Rotational Stretch
Image Credit: Samuel Becourtney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Time 1 Min
Type Flexibility
  1. Sit on a stool or backless chair.
  2. Cross your right leg over your left.
  3. Brace your left elbow against the outside of your right knee.
  4. Twist your torso to the right gently.
  5. Pause here for a few moments, then repeat on the opposite side.
  6. Continue alternating for a minute.

Tip

"As you rotate, if you feel a point that you get stuck, take a few deep breaths and on the exhale, try to rotate even further," Becourtney says.

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