The Southeastern Spine Institute

Stretching out your bad back carries added benefits — along with relief from nagging, persistent back pain. Increased blood flow delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the areas of your body that need it the most, including your back.

When you stretch, maximize this benefit by breathing fully. If you find yourself holding you breath during a stretch, resume breathing at once! Your doctors at the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) want you to do your bad back stretches properly. To that end, they’ll let you know how much you can stretch, based on your current condition and treatment schedule.

The Benefits of Bad Back Stretches

Stretching on a daily basis is a good habit to develop. It’s a good motivator for developing other healthy habits, too. Besides easing your discomfort now, it prevents further back pain in the future. Other benefits from bad back stretches include:

  • Stress relief
  • Tension release
  • Increased flexibility
  • Better posture
  • Satisfaction from doing something beneficial for yourself

When stretching, pay attention to how your body responds. If you’re feeling pain, it may be that you’re overextending your muscles or tendons. Back off. It’s possible to hurt yourself while doing any stretch, so don’t push it, especially when starting out.

It’s All in the Technique

Techniques for bad back stretches vary greatly. Standing techniques are usually a bit easier to do because there’s not a lot of getting up and down required. Ground stretching is beneficial because the load of your weight is taken off of your frame. Use a yoga mat or do these on a carpeted area. Here are the top 10 standing stretches and ground stretches for a bad back:

Standing Stretches:

  1. Reach for the sky
    • Raise your hands above your head
    • Reach higher and higher until you find a comfortable height
    • Imagine you’re actually getting taller
    • This stretch helps with sciatic-related pain and corrects your posture
  2. Touch your toes
    • Standing with your legs straight and together, bend at the waist as far as you can go, with your arms loosely hanging
    • Just hang in this fashion for 20 to 30 seconds for a great bad back stretch
  3. Do the twist
    • Place your hands on your waist or hold them straight out to the sides
    • Rotate back and forth at the waist, fully extending yourself
    • Keep a steady flow, not too fast and not too slow
  4. The arc
    • Take a wide stance with your feet outside of shoulder width
    • Raise your right arm up and arc it over your head to the left while bending at your hips
    • Repeat with your left arm arcing to the right
  5. Shoulder lean
    • Bend your knees and place your hands on them
    • Slowly lean one shoulder in towards your center
    • Hold then repeat with the other side

Ground Stretches:

  1. All fours
    • Take a position as if you were going to give a child a horseback ride
    • Arch your back upwards without straining
    • Then arch your back downward
    • Hold each pose or alternate to customize your own bad back stretches
  2. The seal
    • From all fours, lower yourself and lay face down with hands still supporting your body
    • Do a sort of push up but don’t include the legs; only raise your torso
    • Arch your back in and raise your head up
    • Hold that pose for 30 seconds, release and repeat three or four times
  3. Deep prayer
    • This is one of the most comfortable bad back stretches
    • Kneel on the ground and place your hands side by side on the floor in front of you
    • Slowly slide your hands forward to bring your head towards the floor
  4. The corkscrew
    • Lay flat on your back with your left leg bent
    • Cross your right leg over the left
    • Apply light pressure with your hands
    • Repeat for the other side
  5. Leg pull
    • Lay on your back, bending one leg at a time
    • Pull your leg in toward your chest
    • Hold the stretch
    • Repeat with the other leg