Lower back stiffness can be very annoying. Especially stiffness in the morning! Who likes starting their day with a good dose of stiffness in their lower back? Usually, I want to say always, stiffness increases as we get older. The good news is that you can fix back stiffness quickly! It’s a fact that our joints degrade over time. Degeneration of your lower back is very common. This is true for our entire body. In fact, if you are over 30 years old, the chances you have some signs of degeneration is 50%. The good news is that arthritis is just like the wrinkles on our skin.
Present but not always painful. Arthritis doesn’t have to be painful! It’s crazy to think but remember seeing that older adult walking hunched over? I guarantee if you ask them if they have pain, they will mostly likely say no! Lower back stiffness is there but it’s what you do with it that matters! Movement is key when treating stiffness your lower back. What doesn’t help is how much we sit. Sitting is the new smoking and there is plenty of evidence to say that the more we sit, the sooner we die. Walking and overall mobility a huge role on how you feel! Lower back stiffness almost always feels better after you move.
When I treat lower back stiffness, which is with nearly every patient, it all starts with movement. First we have to understand why you may have stiffness so we can develop the best way to treat lower back stiffness.
1. You sit way too much! It’s recommended you get so many steps in a day for a reason.
2. You don’t change positions as often as you should.
3. You have inflammation in your joints, also known as arthritis.
You can improve all of these! It just takes some motivation and commitment. Not only will you feel better but you will live longer.
Arthritis or osteoarthritis isn't scary once you have a better understanding of what is going on. Lower back arthritis is progressive changes of your joints over time that can be seen and measured on X-rays and other images. It can also be felt. It can be painful and stiff but more often than not, isn’t. Stiffness in your lower back can vary by the day and what you do, but does the level of arthritis in your joints change that quickly? On your good days, you have the same level of arthritis you do during your bad days or painful movements. Crazy right! That’s that makes treatment fun but sometimes tricky. Treating lower back stiffness is best treated by looking at how you move, not by what your picture shows. Stretching your lower back is very beneficial and safe.
Disclaimer. You need to make sure you are okay to exercise and move your body.
This is probably my favorite most effective upper back and lower back stretch since it can be done anywhere and you don’t have to get on the ground! It works into the stiffness but allows you to control how much you feel it! It stretches so much in your back.
1. Stand at your counter or next to something tall and sturdy.
2. Put your arms on the stable surface and step backwards allowing you to bend over with your head between your arms. Try to poke your butt out.
3. Slightly bend your knees and sink you chest and head between your arms.
4. You should feel this in your upper back and lower back. You may also feel this stretch in the back of your legs. Really everything is fair game if you are really stiff! Personally I feel it in my upper back, side of my arms, and sometimes in the back of my legs when I do this stretch.
A good place to start would be 5 for a 10-15 second hold.
This is done on your hands and knees. If you can’t put pressure on your knees try a pillow under them. If that still doesn’t work then don’t worry about it. Don’t force your body to do something.
1. On your hands and knees with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders. Then lift one arm and rotate towards the sky turning your head while you are rotating. You will feel this in your upper back and you will feel that your stabilizing arm is working.
2. Further isn’t better. Just work into your back stiffness and then come back down. As you come back down make sure you are controlled.
3. On your way down reach underneath the other arm towards the other direction. You should feel this in your upper back. Don’t let the stabilizing arm bend as you do this.
Tip: When you get to the top, breath out. You will feel more of the stretch.
Try 5 or so on each side
Okay this is the go to lower back stretch that most love. You will be on your hands and knees again.
1. You will have your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
2. You will tuck your pelvis or contract your abs. As you do this you will feel that you are tucking your hips underneath you.
3. Hold that tuck and sit down towards your heels. You will feel this in your lower back.
I like to start with 5 for a 15 sec hold.
For some, they don’t have enough hip range of motion or have knee stiffness that stops them from doing this. If that is you, just stop where you feel a good stretch, no further. Every body is different and that is okay.
Check out this video to take a peek at what stretching should feel like when you are stiff and achy.
Why is your lower back stiff and achy? Maybe a few reasons such as age, arthritis, or your activity levels. In reality, it really doesn’t matter because you can feel better right away!
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1. Brinjikji W, Luetmer PH, Comstock B, Bresnahan BW, Chen LE, Deyo RA, Halabi S, Turner JA, Avins AL, James K, Wald JT, Kallmes DF, Jarvik JG. Systematic literature review of imaging features of spinal degeneration in asymptomatic populations. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2015 Apr;36(4):811-6. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A4173. Epub 2014 Nov 27. PMID: 25430861; PMCID: PMC4464797.
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