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3 Easy Fast and Effective Lower Back Stretches Standing to Improve Lower Back Pain

3 Easy Fast and Effective Lower Back Stretches Standing to Improve Lower Back Pain

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida

When you stand for most of your day lower back stretches standing can be a quick and effective way to improve lower back pain and stiffness. Consistency is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy lower back. Options that allow you to adapt your lower back stretches to standing so that they can be done anywhere and with limited time is crucial for maintaining a pain free back!

As a father, husband, and working full time, finding the time to squeeze in stretching can be difficult.

Top 3 standing stretches to alleviate lower back pain: 

  1. Standing L stretch
  2. Standing lumbar rotation
  3. Standing lumbar rotation with leg behind

Lower back stretches in standing can be a lifesaver for those of us on the go.

Sometimes I need to do it on my lunch break while I'm typing away on patient’s charts. Other times I will tie it into my play time with the kids. Regardless of how I get it in, it is important to not let time or space be a limiting factor in treating low back pain.

Disclaimer

Standing L stretch 

A girl standing near a table with her hands resting on it, bringing her chest to the floor so her body forms an L
Standing L Stretch

The standing L stretch is a great stretch to help loosen the mid back as well as the low back. It puts an emphasis on the latissimus dorsi muscle that attaches to the shoulder, all the way down to the hips and back. Stretching this muscle can help relieve tension that is created between those two areas and provide some relief. You will have to have something you can grab onto and it needs to be somewhat elevated. Place your hands on something that is roughly eye level. Then, step back until your arms are fully extended. After that, bend at the waist until you feel a stretch that starts under the armpits and then runs down the back. Try and hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds. 

Standing lumbar rotation 

A girl standing with her feet hips width apart, rotating to the right while keeping her feet still
Standing Lumbar Rotation

We often think of our backs being designed to bend and extend. However, the ability for our spines to rotate is a pivotal function that allows us to perform many activities of daily living. You will often see golfers use this move as a warm up. The standing lumbar rotation stretch starts in a standing position with the feet about shoulder width. The hips and feet will try to stay in place while you twist your upper body from one side to the other. Be sure to start slow and build up the range as you get more comfortable. 

Standing lumbar rotation with leg behind 

A girl standing in a lunge position, rotating to the left while keeping her feet still
Standing lumbar rotation with one leg behind

This stretch is very similar to the standing lumbar rotation stretch. The difference is that you will offset one leg behind. This will help bias one side as well as give you more range on the rotation. Start with standing with the feet shoulder width. Then step one foot forward so that one foot is in front while the other is behind. This can be a difficult position to balance in, so you may find it easier to spread the feet further to either side to make your base bigger. From there you will want to rotate you back as if you are trying to turn around, while keeping your feet in the same position.

Just like the previous stretch, start slow and build up the range as you become more comfortable. You can also try to position yourself near a wall or chair so you have something to grab on if you begin to lose your balance. 

Stretching exercises that target the lower back are an effective tool to loosen your low back.

Stiffness is usually a result of maintaining a sustained posture for too long. It is important to find movements that allow you to get up and stretch regardless of the setting and can also be done in a time efficient manner.

I often tell my patients that frequency can be the key to eliminating low back pain.

The best way to attack that stiff lower back is to allow it to bend and rotate, bringing it to its “end range” so that you can move more freely. One phrase that is common in physical therapy clinics across the world is “motion is lotion.”

This means that the more you move, the more lubrication that your body will produce at the joints.

So, the more you move the easier it will be to move. The joints will glide more freely and the muscles will work together to produce a more smooth movement. The key is to find the movements that you can do comfortably to establish a base to work off of. 

How should I stand to relieve lower back pain?

There isn’t one way to stand to relieve lower back pain. The key is to not maintaining a position for prolonged periods of time.

Our bodies are meant to be dynamic. Take time to change positions often. Switch the weight distribution from one leg to the other then back to even on both sides. If you find yourself arching your back, take the time to move in the opposite direction. 

Most of the time people naturally avoid painful positions. This isn’t necessarily a good thing in that it may cause other issues to develop around the ankle, knee, or hip.

How you stand with regard to lower back pain is mostly dependent where the back pain is and what positions provoke versus those that relieve. For some people, leaning to one side may cause their pain to increase.

If you find that leaning to the right is painful, then you would want to avoid putting all of your weight on your right leg as this would cause you to lean in that direction.

How can I stretch my lower back without laying down?

You don't have to lay down to stretch your lower back with these easy stretches.

1. Standing L stretch

2. Standing lumbar rotation

3. Standing split leg lumbar rotation

The beauty of having these standing stretches in your arsenal is that they can be done nearly anywhere. From an airport to standing in line at the grocery store, these stretches are easily completed with no need of getting on the ground.

When you have a general understanding of how the muscles and joints of the back work together to produce movement, you can have a good idea of what may or may not help with the back.

The three stretches outlined in the blog work to elongate the thoracic spine and latissimus dorsi, rotate the vertebrae and surrounding musculature, and stretch the muscle that connects the hip to the lumbar spine, all in a way that you can do while standing up. 

One of the other uses for these exercises would be a light warm up before playing golf or tennis. Priming your joints and muscles for twisting can be advantageous to add to your routine.

When playing golf, the last thing you want to do is lay on the ground to stretch out your lower back.

With these three stretches, you can use the golf cart or the side of the clubhouse to allow you to bend and twist to get you ready for the course.

Another way to build on to the standing lumbar rotation exercises is to hold on to a golf club as you twist. The torque that is put on the spine during a golf swing is more than people think.

Using our concepts of “motion is lotion” we can lubricate the joints before we use them. This may improve your golf game, as well as potentially prevent injury. 

Safe and Easy Standing Stretches for Seniors

Stretches performed in standing for seniors can be beneficial to reduce lower back pain. There is good evidence that shows a positive effect with using general exercise that has stretching as a component in the management of lower back pain in seniors.

Furthermore, there are good indicators that maintaining mobility as we age is beneficial for preventing future flare ups of low back pain. Taking this one step further is to think of maintaining our resiliency as we age. To move away from vulnerability and fragility and take a step towards resiliency takes time and effort.

Improving strength and resiliency as we age
Improve strength and Resiliency in Seniors and Older Adults

One of the bigger issues that I have found with older adults is the ability to get up and down from the floor. When I was in college I used to teach a balance and mobility class for participants that were 65 years or older. It took one session of them getting on the floor for me to realize that going down and up off the floor becomes more difficult as we age. With these standing exercises we can eliminate the need for getting up and down on the floor, and still get a good lower back stretch. 

In conclusion, having stretches that can be done anywhere and don’t require a bed or mat are a valuable asset to your management of low back pain.

These stretches can be beneficial to prevent low back pain as well as help provide relief when you are experiencing a flare up. Millions of people experience back pain, but not many know how to deal with it.

Using movement as a form of medicine is a safe, inexpensive, and proven way to treat low back pain. Don’t get caught up in the vicious cycle of thinking that being in pain means you can’t move. More often than not the pain does not improve with the cessation of movement, it usually gets worse.

Revision Health Services offers physical therapy and wellness in Jacksonville, FL, 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.

References:  

George, S. Z., Fritz, J. M., Silfies, S. P., Schneider, M. J., Beneciuk, J. M., Lentz, T. A., Gilliam, J. R., Hendren, S., & Norman, K. S. (2021). Interventions for the Management of Acute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Revision 2021. The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy, 51(11), CPG1–CPG60. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2021.0304

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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