Your lower back can truly be a burden. For couch potatoes, athletes and busy people in between, all manner of sporting injuries and mundane day to day activities can cause your lower back to tighten and ache.
People have a habit of exercising and taking care of what they can see before them. It’s a reason many gym-goers are keen to bench press and not get their standing rows done with anything like routine.
Your lower back lies there tucked away and neglected in the throes of upper body workouts, standing lifts and squats on leg day. Though neglected it is integral in so many movements in and out of the gym that you are guaranteed to feel the effects when there is something wrong with it.
Many lower back episodic injuries and pain are the result of damage to the soft tissues supporting the lower spine, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
There are two common kinds of lower back injuries. These include muscle problems and lumbar sprains. Muscle strains can arise when your fibers tear as a result of being pushed too far or worked too hard. In other words, a pulled muscle. Lumbar sprains are due to tearing or the overworking of your ligaments, which are the tissue that connects your bones.
Your lower back muscles are not an island on their own. In fact, your glutes, hamstrings, hips and core are all linked in their support of your spine. Pain, tightness and restrictions in the movement of your lower back can sometimes be the knock-on result of not keeping these muscles supple. Some of the best stretches to solve and prevent pain in your lower back may, therefore, be to look at the bigger picture of your anatomy and ensure these supporting muscles are in good shape.
Start with this simple one, which you can perform standing or on the floor. Stretch out your leg, touch your toes and attempt to straighten your leg.
Child’s pose stretches out the muscles of your lower back that you probably be holding tight if you are in pain. Start with your hands and knees on the ground. Your hands should be directly beneath your shoulders, with your knees directly under your hips. Extend your arms so that you reach out as far ahead as you can. Place your palms on the floor. From there, gradually move your hips back to your heels so that your chest goes down to the mat. Make sure that you hold the pose for a minimum of 30 seconds.
This stretch is similar to child’s pose, beginning the same on your hands and knees. Keep your back flat and so parallel to the ground. Gradually round your back, stretching like a cat by stretching the middle part of your back between your shoulders. Hold this stretch. Then as you relax, lower your stomach to the floor while your arch your lower back. Hold this stretch. You should do this combination of movements for more than 30 seconds.
The previous two stretches tended to the arching capability of your back, but as previously mentioned, your glutes and hips can contribute to the wellbeing of your lower back. Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and knees bent while forming a T shape with your arms. You should keep your shoulders stationary on the ground. Roll your knees together to your left side and hold for at least 30 seconds. Then repeat on the right side. The aim is to get your knees to the ground, which may not be possible straight away, so start by trying to get them over as far as you can, or use a pillow to support them.
Knees on Chest Stretch
This involves directly stretching out your lower back by lengthening the tightly contracted muscles. Lie on your back and bring your legs up together towards your midriff. Hold your legs by the knees to assist them further at your comfort. Bring them to your chest and hold the pose for at least 30 seconds.
The cobra stretch will help to reduce tension from overly tightened abdominal muscles. Been sat in a car for a long time and feeling the tightness creep in? This one is for you: lie on your front with your palms on the ground at your sides and your legs stretched out. Push your upper body up as in a press up while keeping your hips glued to the floor. Keep pushing with your weight held up by your forearms. Once you reach a comfortable limit, hold the pose for 30 seconds and slowly lower yourself back down to the mat.
Lower back pain can be the result of many things, so it is important to listen to your body and know your limits, and seek medical advice if you are concerned.
As a general rule, lower back tightness can be due to inactivity and obesity, allowing your weight to rest on the bottom of your back. Poor posture is another suspect. If you work a job where you are sat down for prolonged periods of time, a stiff lower back may be a symptom letting you know to get up and move around more. If you are having difficulty manoeuvring because of a tight lower back, throwing an easy swim into your weekly routine could loosen those kinks and keep aches from turning into tightness-related pains while avoiding impact exercise such as running, which could leave you feeling worse off.