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6 Simple Stretches For Lower Back Pain and Hips

6 Simple Stretches For Lower Back Pain and Hips

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida
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The quick relief you’ve been looking for from 6 simple stretches for lower back pain and hips, crafted by our physical therapists:

  1. Hip flexor stretch
  2. Hamstring stretch
  3. Piriformis stretch
  4. Quadriceps stretch
  5. Angry Cat stretch
  6. Prone press up

Hip and lower back pain can be a bugger. There isn’t a one size fits all stretch because everyone’s body is unique. However, we are a team of physical therapists that have tried countless stretches with our clients. Let’s dive into some nuances together of each of the above stretches! Don’t feel like reading? Check out our video instead.  


Hip Flexor Stretch

A girl kneeling in a half lunge, leaning forward.
Hip Flexor Stretch

Start by kneeling on a soft surface. Bring your left foot forward so it is flat on the ground. You want to scoop your pelvis under, almost like you are a dog tucking your tail between your legs. Move your pelvis and your trunk forward leaning into that left knee while maintaining your upright posture. You should start to feel a stretch through your kneeling thigh, up into the front of your hip. 

Hamstring Stretch

A girl lying on her back stretching her leg upwards with a strap

If you have a stretch out strap like we use here, it makes this stretch a lot easier and can be much more comfortable. Once you’re in the starting position, and loop the strap around 1 foot, extend your other leg out straight. Use the strap to bring your leg up into the air, keeping your knee as straight as possible. You should feel a big stretch behind the back of your thigh from your knee down to your butt.You may even feel a slight stretch into your calf muscle. Toggle in and out of this position for up to 60 seconds on each leg.

Piriformis Stretch 

A girl lying on her back with one ankle crossed over the opposite knee. Then bringing the bottom thigh towards her.

Once you’re in the starting position, bend both knees up so your feet are resting comfortably on the floor. Cross one ankle over your opposite knee. If you're flexible enough, you can loop your arms around your thigh, pulling both of your knees up towards your nose. If you struggle with pain or flexibility, you can simply pull your knee and ankle that is crossed over up towards your nose. Toggle in and out of this position for up to 60 seconds on each leg.

Quadriceps Stretch

A girl standing with support from a table, bending one knee behind her until she can grab her ankle

Start by standing with a solid surface in front of you for some balance. Bend one knee up so you can hold your ankle in your hand. You want to make sure that your thigh is in line with your hip. It's very common for your thigh to want to sneak forward if your quadriceps are tight. Make sure that that knee that's bent is pointing straight down to the ground and stand up tall. You should feel a stretch in the front of your thigh and maybe even up to your hip. Toggle in and out of this position for up to 60 seconds on each leg.

Angry Cat

A girl on her hands and knees, pushing her back up towards the ceiling like an angry cat

Starting on your hands and knees, you want to arch your lower back up towards the ceiling like you're an angry cat on Halloween. Alternatively, you can think about trying to squeeze your navel in towards your spine and up towards the ceiling. Return to a neutral position with your back. You can alternate between these two positions, feeling a stretch in your back down to your hips. Move through a higher volume of repetitions here, feeling your body start to loosen with each rep.

Prone Press Up

A girl lying on her stomach then pressing her arms straight while keeping her hips on the table

The starting position for this exercise is lying on your stomach with your hands under your shoulder. Your goal is to push your elbows straight, lifting your chest up off of the table while your hip bones stay resting on the table. It's OK to feel some stiffness in your back with this exercise. However if you start to feel any symptoms running down the back of your legs with this exercise, then this exercise might not be great for your body right now.  Try a combination of toggling in and out of this position and holding in that position until your arms need a rest. 

Physiotherapy exercises for lumbar pain

Exercises such as clam shells, bridges, dead bugs, bird dogs, and pelvic tilting are an excellent place to start.

Physios work with spine pain a lot.  Given that 90% of people will have spine pain at some point throughout their life means that we have worked through countless stretches for lower back pain as well as exercises for all of the parts connected to the low back, such as the hips, knees, upper back, and core. There is also a ton of fear that people can have with low back pain, especially if they think they have a pinched nerve or recently had imaging done with scary sounding findings like degenerative disc disease.

Never fear. Physios are well versed in handling these symptoms and issues and also have the education to help calm your fears. The best place to start is with a solid foundation. If you want to watch what some of these exercises look like, check out some exercises you can do with a resistance band.

How do you relieve lower back and hip pain?

To relieve lower back pain, it’s best to combine strengthening, mobility work, and flexibility training.

However, relieving back and hip pain is very unique person to person. If you've been struggling with this pain for quite some time or you're just looking for the most efficient path to feeling better, I would recommend getting your symptoms assessed by healthcare professionals such as a physical therapist.

If you're the do-it-yourself type and want to try some things on your own first, try the stretches we ran through above.  If you feel like your pain is more focused to the morning time, you might do well targeting your muscles with some stretches your muscles and joints while in bed. Short on time? Listen to the exercise you need to be doing to live a more functional life with less pain!

Does stretching hips help lower back pain?

Yes, the top 4 muscle groups to go after are the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and inner thigh.

Hip stretches can help to relieve lower-back pain if your back pain is caused from tight muscles that attach to your hip. However there are many causes for pain which may or may not be related to your hips. Given that back pain is usually a combination of strength issues, flexibility issues, and mobility issues, working on the flexibility of your hips can be an excellent place to start if you're looking to try the do-it-yourself route.

Can tight lower back cause hip pain?

It is more common for a stiff hip to cause low back pain or tightness, but a tight back could make you move differently and cause hip pain. 

Alternatively, there are some muscles of the hip that attach to our lower back or near lower back so it's quite common to confuse back pain for hip pain or hip pain for back pain. Trying some stretches for your hips and back may help you to tease out which structure is causing your issues on your own.

If you try some of these things and you feel like you still need help, don't hesitate to seek the help from a movement specialist, such as a physical therapist. 

How should I stretch if my lower back hurts?

Start in a positioning that causes minimal to no discomfort for your lower back. For some people, this is stretching their low back in bed with their knees bent or laying on their side with their knees bent up towards their chest.

It can be tempting to not want to move if your back hurts, but discomfort is one languages that our body uses to talk to our brain to motivate us to move.

The six exercises above are excellent ways to start stretching either your back or structures around your lower back. Remember, listen to what your body is telling you.

If a stretch makes your discomfort feel worse, then that movement might not be best for your body at that point. Move on to some different back stretches. 

Once you have a good repertoire of what feels good for your body, you can start to increase your range of motion or frequency of stretches which should help your lower back to feel looser in no time.  

Check out these 10 stretches to relieve lower back pain for some additional relief!

What workouts should I do if my lower spine hurts?

Any exercises that respect your discomfort are a good place to start. Try to use the stop light rule: 

  • If something makes you feel worse during the exercise AND after the exercise, that is a red light. That probably isn't best for your body right now. 
  • If something makes you feel worse during BUT fine shortly after, that is a yellow light. Proceed, but listen to what your body is telling you. 
  • If you feel fine during AND after, well then of course it is a green light!

Usually, people seek additional help from a movement specialist like a physical therapist if it seems like most of their workouts are in the yellow or red zone for their bodies. A physio can help you to work through those yellow light exercises to progress you to the green once again. 

In summary, hip and lower back pain can be a tricky but simple stretches for your back and hips can be a great place to start. Movement and stretching are an evidence based approach to treating pain and discomfort. The pathway to recovery is different for everyone but these stretches can be a great place to start! 

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.


Owen PJ, Miller CT, Mundell NL, Verswijveren SJJM, Tagliaferri SD, Brisby H, Bowe SJ, Belavy DL. Which specific modes of exercise training are most effective for treating low back pain? Network meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2020 Nov;54(21):1279-1287. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2019-100886. Epub 2019 Oct 30. PMID: 31666220; PMCID: PMC7588406.

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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