I can’t stand googling “Stretches for lower back tightness”. To me, it’s like throwing darts at a dartboard while wearing a blindfold. When you start digging around the internet for stretches to help this tightness you have to be really careful. Not all stretches are created equal and in some cases, the last thing your lower back needs is to be stretched and twisted.
Today, I want to show you how I approached “stretching” to get the relief I experience today along with some big mistakes you could be making with their own relief attempts!
The BIG mistake back pain sufferers make with stretching!
For the love of all things fitness, just because your lumbar spine is tight does not mean you need to stretch it directly. There was a time where I would do a basic child’s pose (pay more attention to what she is doing, not what she is saying. She is not speaking to all lower back pain sufferers) and my lumbar spine felt like it was pure concrete. No amount of direct stretching was going to help and the more I stretched it the more I was just pissing it off even more. Because of this experience I thought this stretch was TERRIBLE for my tightness so I cut it out completely. Since then I have learned that its all about application and timing. It is a good stretch and can be done safely but must be applied slowly and at the right point of recovery.
When it comes to my own concrete slab of a lower back I started seeing the best results when I took a more indirect approach to stretching. By doing this, over time that concrete started to break up and get more workable.
The frustrating part is, I was constantly failing at applying what I was finding on YouTube and Google to my own life. Nothing seemed to be working.
You can try it for yourself. Google “best stretches for lower back tightness”. You will get a few good ones sprinkled in but the majority of them are actually focusing on the lumbar spine specifically. What I want you to do is step back from the actual source of pain and think about the areas that surround the point of pain. For me personally, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fix my ruptured disk but I did know that If I can loosen up the minor/major muscles that make up the support system to my spine, it was going to bring me relief.
3 reasons stretching the lower back may not be the best fit for you.
1) Your back is chronically stiff due to some kind of instability.
Don’t freak out and start worrying about that word “unstable”. It’s just another way of saying something is causing the muscles in your lumbar spine to either over work or prefer a more extended posture which is causing the irritation over time. If you were to only approach it from the symptom side of things then all you’re really doing is stretching/treating a symptom NOT the problem.
2) Most times (unless stretching is slowly introduced) stretching will only cause this tightening reaction to get worse.
I call this reaction your bodies protection mechanism. I actually explain it in the video below!
It might feel good while doing it but typically I find the tightness comes back within 10-15 minutes after stretching.
3) Twisting and stretching an inflamed lumbar spine will only prolong your recovery.
I remember I would constantly feel I needed to crack my back when I was at my worst. I would twist hard one way and maybe get a pop then twist hard the other way with the same results. I was hoping for relief but would normally only get this acute painful sensation as if doing that just made the area more irritated. The pops coming from the joints would give me a short glimpse of relief but the over stretching would always be something I paid for a later.
So lets step back from yanking on the muscles right now and take a different approach and plan of attack with our stretching.
For those of you with lower back tightness, stretching may not even belong in your routine. Instead, pick one of these videos and implement what you see for the next 4 weeks and report back to me with what you discover. You have 3 months worth of stretching and tissue work that will be more effective to treating lower back pain and tightness then directly yanking on the lumbar spine itself.
Top 3 stretching routines for lower back tightness.
Hip Opener Complex.
This is a great routine to to do once or twice a day. I prefer people to do it after their workout or before bed due to their body being “awake” and a bit more limber compared to first thing in the am.
Piriformis, Inner thigh, TFL work
You may need to watch this video a few times. He runs through these drills pretty quick.
Key things to remember:
-Go at your own pace. If one of these drills is causing some serious pain back off and let me know in the comment section below what you are experiencing. I have some alternative exercises you can do
-Implementing all three of these at once may be a bit much so take one or two and do them every day for the next few weeks.
The Couch Stretch:
Dear Lord this stretch is painful, but it is AMAZING. Just like your hamstrings, your quads can get tight and shorten causing them to yank down on your pelvis which could cause pain in your lower back. This stretch can be performed both on a couch or using a wall.
If you find yourself sitting a lot start doing this stretch daily.
Key things to remember:
-Don’t over extend the lumbar spine.
-Brace the trunk before dipping back into this stretch.
-Don’t try to sit straight up on your first go.
-Don’t force an upright posture, earn it by slowly working your way up.
If you sit for long periods of time your hamstrings are more then likely short. With this exercise I only want you to focus on the flossing portion with the band. You can get these bands anywhere for pretty cheap. I will include a link from the ones I use here: HERE
Key things to remember:
-If going hands to the floor is too much, bring a chair in front of you and use that to support your upper body.
-Slow controlled movements
-2-3 sets of 2 minute sessions (1 minute on both sides)
All of these drills will bring tons of relief to the lower back over time. Key thing is over time. You can’t do one of these routines for a few days and expect it all to be gone. You have to make the time investment to bring length to muscles and allow your body to change. There are no quick fixes just routes to take for your own personal relief.
I want to hear about your experience with any of these routines.
Have you tried every stretch in these videos? Which one do you love/hate?
Let me know in the comments sections below.
Talk to you soon!