The 10 Best Lower Back Stretches for Better Mobility and Sweet, Sweet Relief

For the love of your lumbar

lower back stretches universal
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Raise your hand if you’ve ever had back pain… Yep, that’s what we thought. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 80 percent of American adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives (oh joy), with many chronic sufferers claiming it has negatively affected their work lives, social lives and general mobility. If you ask us, life’s too short to move through it in pain. So, we checked in with a fitness specialist for the most effective lower back stretches in her arsenal, plus top tips for how to best care for our sensitive spines.

Meet the Expert

Natalia Perez-Segnini is a NASM-certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, trauma-informed specialist and head coach at Tone House, a premier, athletic-based strength and conditioning facility in New York City. Perez-Segnini has dedicated her professional life to helping others better understand themselves through the modalities of movement and breath. She specializes in the mind-body connection and emphasizes the importance of intentional movement with a focus on longevity, enhanced quality of life and nervous system health. Perez-Segnini has her own experience with stubborn back pain and spinal health. These ten lower back stretches are pulled directly from her daily routine as a fitness professional.

In addition to stretching, Perez-Segnini also urges her clients to focus on strengthening when managing back pain. “It’s equallyif not moreimportant to strengthen the low-, mid- and upper-back, as well as the muscle groups surrounding the core, glutes and hips,” she says. And scientific studies conducted by the Oxford Academic would agree. Strength training that targets these areas will “help support a strong foundation that is responsible for protecting the spine.” She goes on to explain, “If you only stretch your back but neglect to strengthen the surrounding muscle groups, the pain you’re experiencing will come back time and time again.” (Of course, if pain persists beyond a few weeks and keeps you from participating in your daily activities, it might be time to talk to an orthopedist or a physical medicine doctor.)

Whether you’re looking to establish a routine, ward off body aches or soothe a flare-up, we’ve got ten lower back stretches your body is no doubt begging for.

Tone House

1. Cat-Cow

This classic yoga move stretches the entire spinelumbar (low back), thoracic (mid back) and cervical (neck)through controlled spinal extension and flexion.

Step 1: Begin in a neutral position on all fours with your wrists below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Take a deep inhale and push your palms into the ground while dropping your belly towards the floor. Broaden your shoulders and lengthen through your collarbone while you arch your lower back, tilting your head slightly up and shifting your gaze towards the ceiling.

Step 2: As you exhale, tuck your tailbone while progressively rounding your lower, middle and upper back sequentially, pulling your belly button in towards your spine. Press the tops of your feet into the ground while tilting your head down and shifting your gaze between your legs. Flow through both movements, completing 10 to 20 reps total.

Tone House

2. Thread the Needle

This stretch targets the thoracic spine, which plays a big role in overall spinal health. 

Step 1: Begin in a neutral position on all fours with your wrists below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Keeping your left palm planted firmly on the ground, reach your right arm up towards the ceiling as you inhale, stretching tall while opening up your chest.

Step 2: Lower your right arm and thread it behind your left, bringing your right shoulder and cheek (if possible) down to the floor. Take three breaths here, allowing your muscles to relax as your torso twists. Complete 5 reps, then switch and repeat on the opposite side.

Tone House

3. Child’s Pose with Lateral Reach

With the knees together, this stretch helps to release the lumbar spine as well as lengthen the Quadratus Lumborum (QL) which is the deepest muscle in our lower back.

Step 1: Begin kneeling on the floor with your knees together. Inhale as you lower your torso towards your thighs and reach your arms forward, extending through your fingertips with your head in a neutral position. Hold here for three breaths.

Step 2: To enhance the stretch, move both hands over to the left, reaching out as far as possible while keeping your hips and shoulders squarely facing the ground. Hold here for three breaths, then move back to center and repeat on the opposite side. Complete 3 reps on each side.

Tone House

4. Seated Twist

Like wringing out a towel, this restorative move helps encourage spinal mobility and rotation.  

Step 1: Begin in a seated position with both legs stretched out in front of you. Lift and bend the left leg in towards your chest, then step the left foot over your right thigh and place it on the ground next to your right knee. Place your left hand down on the ground behind your seat and reach the right hand up towards the ceiling as you inhale.

Step 2: On your next exhale, bring the right elbow down to the inside of your left knee and rotate out towards your left side, gazing over your shoulder if possible. Hold here for three breaths, then release, return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Complete 1 to 3 reps on each side.

Tone House

5. Supine Twist

This movement focuses on trunk rotation, which targets the low- and mid-back muscles. 

Step 1: Begin lying flat on your back with your arms extended out in a T formation. As you inhale, hug your knees into your chest and roll both legs to the left side of your body while keeping both shoulders on the ground and hips stacked on top of each other.

Step 2: As you exhale, shift your gaze while turning your head in the opposite direction to look over your right shoulder. Hold here for three breaths, then return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Complete 1 to 3 reps on each side.

Tone House

6. Pelvic Tilt

This stretch is all about lumbar extension and flexion, which connects to the pelvis through the sacrum.

Step 1: Begin lying flat on your back with your knees bent and feet planted firmly on the ground. The pelvic tilt stretch is subtle, so bring your hands to your hips to help isolate the movement and feel the internal shift.

Step 2: As you inhale, arch your lower back, bringing your pelvis into an anterior (forward) tilt position. As you exhale, tuck your tailbone and carve out your stomach bringing your pelvis into a posterior (backward) tilt position. Move slow and controlled, focusing on isolating the pelvis and lower back specifically. Complete 10 reps total.

Tone House

7. Supported Bridge

Grab a yoga block! This stretch offers a gentle hold in spinal extension.

Step 1: Begin lying flat on your back with your knees bent and feet planted firmly on the ground. Using a yoga block (or a thick pillow), turn the block to its lowest height and slide it underneath your sacrum (which sits just above your tailbone).

Step 2: Let your hands gently fall out to your sides with your palms facing up. Hold here for ten breaths, breathing deeply as your back and hips release.

Tone House

8. Knee-to-Chest

This stretch helps to lengthen the hip flexors while mobilizing the hip joint and its surrounding muscles, which directly impact the lower back. 

Step 1: Begin lying flat on your back with your knees bent and feet planted firmly on the ground. Hug your left knee in towards your chest while simultaneously kicking your right leg out with your heel pressed into the ground.

Step 2: Continue pulling your left knee in and slightly up towards your left armpit, holding here for three full breaths. Release your tucked knee and switch legs, repeating the movement on the opposite side. Complete 5 reps on each side.

Tone House

9. Scorpions

A favorite of runners and lifters alike, this dynamic stretch is focused on spinal rotation to help open your hips and mobilize your lower back. 

Step 1: Begin lying face down on the ground with your arms extended out in a T formation, maintaining a neutral position in your head and neck by keeping your chin on the ground and gaze focused on the floor.

Step 2: Take a deep inhale. As you exhale, lift and bend your right knee while also lifting your right hip up off the ground. Rotate your leg up and over your body, aiming your right foot towards your left hand until your toes touch the ground (or as far as your mobility allows).

Step 3: Inhale and return to the neutral starting position. Exhale and repeat on the opposite side, keeping your shoulders as close to the ground as possible. Complete 5 reps on each side.

Tone House

10. Forward Fold Variation

Not your average forward fold! This variation allows for decompression of the lumbar spine in addition to stretching the glutes and hamstrings.

Step 1: Begin in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart, arms resting at your sides. Raise your arms toward the ceiling as you inhale to lengthen your obliques and expand your diaphragm.

Step 2: Release your torso to the floor, folding over your legs while keeping a soft bend in your knees. Hold for a breath, then wrap a few fingers around your big toes and bend your knees until your chest is resting on top of your thighs. Take a deep inhale.

Step 3: Using the grip you have on your big toe, release your neck and pull your head down towards the floor letting your elbows bend and splay out to the sides. Hold here for 15 to 30 seconds.

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Executive Managing Editor

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