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Top 5 stretches for low back pain you can do anywhere

Top 5 stretches for low back pain you can do anywhere

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida
Table of Contents

With these 5 stretches for low back pain, you can start getting a handle on your symptoms. You don't need to feel helpless, you need a plan and a place to start.

  1. Standing extension
  2. Seated piriformis stretch
  3. Lunging hip flexor stretch
  4. Standing L stretch
  5. Forward flexion

Stretching for lower back pain is more of a process than a quick fix. There are times where stretching to relieve lower back pain can yield instant results, but usually it takes time to experience benefits. This tends to be the most difficult concept for people to understand when it comes to using exercise as medicine.

There is no magic pill or shot that will eliminate pain. It can take weeks for the pain to subside and function to be regained.

The best set of stretches you can do for your back pain are the ones you can stick to. Developing a program or group of stretches that can be done regardless of the setting helps tremendously with adherence and subsequently get that stubborn back pain under control. 

Don't feel like reading? Check out our video version!

How to relieve lower back pain fast 

Lower back stretches that can be done on a consistent basis can be help to relieve lower back pain fast. Barriers to fixing low back pain can be both mental and physical. It is important to remember that anytime you are hurting, your pain is IMPORTANT; however, it is often not harmful.

A routine that has an emphasis on movement and furthermore those that are able to be done in a variety of settings can have a profound effect on recovery.

First of all, you are in control of your back pain rather than it controlling you. Too many people have become slaves to their pain so that it dictates their every move.

However, nerve pain can be just terrible and leave people desperate for relief. If you feel like your pain is more sharp or electrical in nature, I would instead direct you to these expert recommended stretches for a pinched nerve in your lower back.

What is the best stretch for lower back pain?

There is no one best stretch for low back pain because it is largely dependent on the individual and how they respond to particular positions.

The closest we have to the “best stretch” for lower back pain is a series of movements that helps restore proper function to the lower back.

Stretches should not only target the lower back, but also the hips and pelvis as well. Many of us are sitting for a majority of the day which leads to stiffness in the hip flexors from the hips being flexed for so long.

Others of us really struggle with morning stiffness and would greatly benefit from lower back stretches in bed to relieve morning stiffness.

While others may be reading this while still in bed because their back hurts so much they havent been able to move much! They would best benefit from a series of simple stretches in bed for low back pain.

Stretches for lower back pain come in all shapes and sizes. The best stretch isn’t one stretch but a careful throughout sequence of stretches.

What are the five exercises for strengthening the lower back?

This article will outline five stretches that work together to reduce stiffness in the areas that are most likely tight on those with low back pain. The main places that are tight tend to be the lumbar area, hip flexors, hips, and the latissimus dorsi. By stretching these muscles we can relieve the stress that can cause on the lower back and reduce pain. 


Standing extension 

A girl standing with her hands on her back, arching backwards from her lower back
Standing lumbar extension

In a standing position hold your hands on the hips and stand straight up and down. Have your feet slightly wider than shoulder width to ensure that you maintain balance while you do the movement. Once your hands are on your hips, start to lean back while keeping your hips forward and legs planted to the ground. Start by leaning back gently and then progress as tolerated. This stretch can be enhanced if you have a counter top to lean up against. The counter can act as a fulcrum, keeping the hips in place as the lumbar spine leans back into extension. As always, there should not be pain that shoots down the buttocks or leg when getting to your end range. 

Seated piriformis stretch

A girl sitting on a table with one ankle crossed over her opposite knee, gently pushing down on her raised knee.
Seated piriformis stretch

This stretch is great to do if you are sitting or have a chair nearby. It stretches a small muscle that has a huge impact on the low back. This muscle attaches to the sacrum and the hip and is easily accessed, even in the sitting position. Start by sitting closer to the edge of your chair. Start by raising the knee up causing the hip to flex. From there, try to get the outside of your foot on the thigh of the leg that remains in contact with the ground. Make sure that the bone that sticks out of the ankle doesn’t rest on the thigh, as this can be painful. Just slide the ankle further outside the thigh to avoid this.  If this muscle is tight you will notice that the leg that is up will be raised up. Apply gentle, steady pressure to the inside of the knee that is up while leaning forward. This stretch should be felt in the gluteal area. It can be an uncomfortable stretch at first so ease into it. 

Lunging hip flexor stretch

A girl standing in a tall lunge position, rocking forwards to stretch the front of her hip on the back leg
Lunging hip flexor stretch

The main muscle that is involved in raising or flexing the hip is called the Psoas Major. It is a very large muscle that connects the spine to the lower body. When this muscle is tight it can cause a pull on the lower back and lead to hunching over. The lunging hip flexor stretch works to elongate this muscle. The set up is in the lunge position with one leg forward and one back creating a split stance. From here, push the ups forward, while leaning from the waist backwards. This brings the attachment to the spine backwards while maintaining the lower portion fixed in place. The stretch can be progressed by raising both hands over the head to provide a deeper stretch. This one should start at a comfortable range and progress as tolerated. 

Standing L stretch 

A girl with her hands on a table, stepping back an lowering her chest towards the ground until she is in an "L" shape
Standing L stretch

All you need for this stretch is a table to place your hands on that is relatively high. This stretch is working in the opposite direction of the previous stretch in that you will bend at the waist rather than extend. The lats are a very large muscle that attaches to the lower back and hips to the upper back and shoulder. By placing your hands on a high table and bending at the waist we can fixate one portion with the hands and as we bend at the waist, stretch the muscle. Hold both hands on the table and step back a few steps. Keep the arms extended and start to bend the knees. The stretch should be felt under the armpits and through and down into the back. 

Forward flexion or forward fold

A girl folding foward, reaching her hands to her toes while trying to keep her knees straight
Forward fold

The forward fold is done in standing. Think of it as the opposite direction as the standing extension stretch. Reach down towards your toes and let your body relax. If you are feeling this stretch more in the hamstrings, you can bend your knees slightly to relieve some of the stretch in the back of the legs and focus more on the lower back. Go down as low as you can comfortably reach without causing any increases in back pain. This stretch can be held for a few seconds or longer if it is proving relief. 

What is the secret stretch for low back pain?

The best stretch is very much based off the individual, so the coined phrase for this sort of question is "it depends".

It turns out the secret stretch for low back pain isn’t much of a secret at all...  The best stretch is very much based off the individual. In my time working as a physiotherapist I have seen countless patients present with lower back pain.

I wish there was a cookie cutter approach that would fix them all, but that isn’t how life works. The common thread that I do see is that their pain makes them afraid to move.

The lack of movement leads to deeper impairments and decline in function occurs.

Some patients feel great when they do standing back extensions. Others will get relief when they reach down to touch their toes. The important thing to remember is that not only is it safe to move, it is necessary.

When performing these stretches, think about which ones feel the best and put a larger emphasis on that one in the beginning, before progressing to the others. Ultimately we would like to see all of these stretches done in a pain free manner. As stated earlier, they work together to get the spine moving in all directions.

Life isn’t black and white, and neither is your pain. 

Lower back pain relief exercises

Low back pain relief exercises are an effective way to improve the symptoms of an achy back.

Knezevic et. al 2021 describes chronic low back pain as a result of interactions that are on multiple levels. These levels include biological, psychological, and social.

This means that back pain can be influenced by more than just something you lifted funny. This can make the root cause of low back pain difficult to pin down.

Many people notice that when they are experiencing stress, their back pain will increase. Furthermore, the psychological components of pain can not be understated.

The expectation of pain from movement can cause pain that isn’t necessarily related to a dysfunction in the lower back. The stretches outlined in this article are a great way to address low back pain on all three levels.

Performing these movements can build tissue resilience, confidence, reduce stress, and get control of your low back pain. 

Hungry for more? Build your toolbox of stretches and improve your mobility with 10 additional stretched to relieve lower back pain.

Revision Health Services offers telehealth for Florida residents as well as massage and physical therapy locally in Jacksonville, Nocatee, and St. Johns, Florida. To find out if our services could be the best fit for you, reach out and let's chat!

Until next time, stay healthy, keep moving, and take care of yourself.


Knezevic, N. N., Candido, K. D., Vlaeyen, J. W. S., Van Zundert, J., & Cohen, S. P. (2021). Low back pain. Lancet (London, England), 398(10294), 78–92.

Dr. Michael Derry is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and board certified in orthopedics. He is very passionate about treating lower back pain and helping people build their resiliency. He has spent time assisting at universities as well as managing large clinics before starting his own practice in Jacksonville, FL.

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