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Too Much Sitting? 5 Stretches for Low Back Pain

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

If you’re finding yourself sitting a lot lately, you might also have some low back pain creeping in. This is a common complaint right now, especially as we are likely hunched over the keyboard or a phone for more than we’d like to admit (hand raised!). With lots of people working from home now, this is becoming even more true. I started using an app that tells me how much time I spend on my phone each day and yikes was that ever enlightening. While the phone is most associated with neck and shoulder pain, sitting and scrolling on whichever is our device of choice also affects our low back. Sitting puts our joints into a position of constant flexion (being bent). As a result, the muscles that act on those joins tighten. Sitting also weakens the back muscles and can lead to chronic back pain.

Doing the following stretches daily – maybe even as movement breaks throughout the day to break up long periods of sitting – can really help. My smartwatch has a reminder to stand once every hour and that really helps (when I don’t ignore it – I know, so bad). For these poses, hold each pose for 30 seconds. Be sure to breathe slowly, deeply, and consistently as the breath helps signal to the muscles that it’s safe to relax.

1. Half Knee to Chest Pose

This pose helps stretch your glutes, hip flexors, and lower back for increased flexibility and ease of movement.

- Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. Place your hands behind your knee and draw one knee toward your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

2. Reclined Half Pigeon Pose

One of my favorites! This pose really helps the piriformis muscle - a flat, band-like muscle located in the buttocks near the top of the hip joint. It’s important for your low back because it affects almost every motion of the hips and legs. It can get tight with prolonged sitting, leading to not only low back pain, but can also compress the sciatic nerve leading to painful tingling along the buttocks and leg.

- Start from the same position (lying on your back with your knees bent). Place your right ankle across the left knee. Gently reach through your legs and pull the left knee toward your chest, bringing the right leg along with it. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

3. Reclining Spinal Twist Pose

Another one that makes a regular appearance in my yoga sessions! This pose gently stretches the muscles of the low and mid back.

- Lie on your back with your legs stretched out long in front of you. Bend your right knee up, keeping your foot on the ground. Lower the knee toward the ground on the opposite side of your left leg, letting your right glutes lifts up off the floor. Work to keep both shoulder blades on the floor. If your right shoulder blade starts to lift off the floor, allow your right knee to float above the floor. Relax and breathe for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

4. Yoga Squat Variation

This squatting position allows the low back to lengthen, releases the hip flexors, and relieves pressure while also stretching your upper back.

- Squat down. If your heels don’t reach the floor, place a folded blanket under your heels. Hold onto something low to the ground for support. Hold a low squat with your knees together with your head resting on your knees. Feel the back expanding with each inhale.

5. Low Lunge

A really good stretch for your hip flexors, those muscles at the front of your hips that can get really tight from sitting a long time. This tightening then makes it harder for you to stand up straight and maintain a healthy standing posture.

- Come up onto your knees. Bring your right leg forward with your hands just above your knee. Bend your knee gently forward. Keep your right knee over your ankle and your back straight, feeling the stretch through your hips and legs. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat on the other side.

Low back pain is a common problem, but fortunately these poses and a regular yoga program can help protect and strengthen our backs. Keeping up with some regular targeted movement can help prevent more pain later down the road, as well as relieve any current discomfort. Try this simple routine and let me know how it goes. Did it help? Did you find any relief or rejuvenation? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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