Back pain is widely considered one of the most common types of chronic pain among adults. It can be hard to ignore — and may have you feeling like you just want to lie down and rest.
While rest is an essential part of your body’s healing process, it often only provides temporary relief — if any at all. Back muscles can require specific movements and stretches to help you relax and reduce pain.
If you’re struggling with back pain, I recommend checking in with your doctor or chiropractor to explore the root cause and work toward a long-term solution. However, day to day when you’re feeling back pain, I recommend the following stretches and yoga poses you can easily perform at home. Choose one to two exercises based on where you’re experiencing pain.
Neck and Shoulders
Flexion stretches target your neck and your shoulders. You can do this stretch while sitting or standing. Place your hand on the top of your head and gently pull down, bringing your chin to your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and bring your head back upright. Repeat three times.
Lateral Flexion Stretch
Start in a sitting or standing position and relax your shoulders while keeping your back straight. Place one hand on the opposite side of your head and gently pull, bringing your ear toward your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side.
A shoulder roll, also known as a shrug, helps stretch your upper-back muscles (specifically the trapezius muscles). To perform the stretch, hang your arms by your sides then lift your shoulders towards your ears while breathing in. Next, move your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Exhale as you drop your shoulders. Repeat 10 times.
The cat-cow stretch targets a large part of your upper back by moving the spine from a rounded position (flexion) to an arched position (extension).
Start by positioning yourself in a table pose by aligning your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Take a deep breath. As you exhale, stretch your spine up toward the ceiling as if you’re pulling your navel toward your spine. This is the cat pose.
Next, breathe in as you arch your back and relax your belly. Keep your chin up while pointing your tailbone upward to get into the cow pose. Alternate between these positions 10 times.
This exercise targets your back as well as your hips, thighs, and ankles. To perform child’s pose, start in a kneeling position and rest your palms on top of your thighs. Stretch your body forward and lower your torso between your knees. Extend your arms in front of you and lower your top half comfortably to the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat three times.
The knee-to-chest stretch targets your lower back and buttocks. Start by lying on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly bring your knees toward your chest. Use your hands to grab your knees and gently pull your them closer to your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times.
Piriformis Muscle Stretch
This stretch targets your piriformis, a muscle in the gluteal region. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Start by lifting one leg and bending your knee. Use your hand from the opposite side to reach across your body, then pull your knee in the direction of the opposite shoulder. Hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side.
A pelvic tilt helps strengthen your abdominal muscles which act like a brace for your spine and help prevent back pain. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Flatten your back by tightening your abdominal muscles and slightly bending your pelvis up. Hold this position for up to 10 seconds and repeat three times.
This type of yoga stretch engages your spine, abdomen, buttocks, and chest. Start by lying on your stomach with your toes pointing out and keep your palms down beneath your shoulders. Slowly lift your chest from the ground by straightening your arms and tilting your head backward. Make sure to gaze upward to engage your abdominal muscles. Breathe deeply and hold the pose for five seconds and repeat 20 to 30 times.