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5 simple stretches for lower back pain in bed- reduce pain fast

5 simple stretches for lower back pain in bed- reduce pain fast

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

Our top 5 stretches you can do in bed for lower back pain to find relief, loosen your muscles, and move a bit better. Let's get started!

  1. Pelvic tilting 
  2. Bent knee trunk rotations
  3. Hamstring stretching 
  4. Knees to chest
  5. Thomas stretch

Everyone’s pain and body is unique which means what might help something a little might help someone else a lot! However, after helping countless people work through their back pain, we have found these five exercises to be the most beneficial, comfortable, and convenient for our patients.  Without further ado, let’s dive into some nuances of each of the above stretches!

Don’t feel like reading? Check out our video instead.  


Pelvic Tilting 

A girl lying on her back, rocking her pelvic back and forth
Pelvic Tilting 

Begin lying on your back with your knees bent. You’re going to rock your pelvis forwards and backwards. When rocking your pelvis backwards, you can pretend that you’re tucking your tale between your legs. When you’re rocking your pelvis forward, you’ll notice that your back arches up off the table slightly. This is an excellent exercise to start with while you’re still lying in bed in the morning to help to get your muscles and joints moving as well as increase some blood flow.

Bent Knee Trunk Rotations

A girl lying on her back, rocking her bent knees side to side
Bent Knee Trunk Rotations

While lying on your back with your knees bent, start to rock your knees side to side. It should be in a comfortable range for you. Some people may prefer their feet to be further apart while other people may prefer to need to be closer together. It’s completely your preference and what feels best for your body. This by no means should increase the pain that you have in your lower back. You can work through higher repetitions of these exercises because your goal is mobility. Think somewhere in the 30 repetition range.

Hamstring Stretch

A girl lying on her back, using a strap to stretch her straight leg up towards the ceiling
Hamstring Stretch

While lying on your back in bed, extend one leg out long while you bring the other leg up towards the ceiling. Use your hands or a stretch out strap to support your leg. You should feel good pull in the back of your thigh. Some people prefer to hold a stretch position while others prefer to toggle in and out of the stretch. You may notice that you’re more stiff in the morning compared to the end of your day. We’re looking to improve your morning stiffness here, so be gentle with your body.

Knees to Chest

A girl lying on her back, bringing both knees to her chest
Knees to Chest

This is an excellent lower back stretch and usually tolerance very well by most people. Simply bring both knees up towards your chest like you’re giving them a big hug. You can alternate between hugging your knees in tighter and then letting them relax a bit. Repeat so that you can feel very a good stretching your low back. Everybody’s hips are built a little bit differently and you may find that your comfortable position has your knees pointing out to the side, almost in a slight butterfly position.  Experiment with this angle here to see what feels best for your body.

Thomas Stretch

A girl lying on her back, resting one leg off the table and bringing the opposite knee to her chest
Thomas Stretch

The purpose of this exercise is to stretch out your thigh muscle and your hip flexors at the same time. Start by lying close to the edge of your bed with your shoulders supported on the table and one leg hanging off the table. Bring your opposite knee to your chest. You should feel a stretch in the front of your hip or in the top of your thigh in the leg that is resting off the table. To take this stretch up a notch, you can use a stretch out strap around your ankle to bend your knee further towards your bottom.

How do you stretch your lower back and hips in bed?

Focus on stretches that incorporate your pelvis, such as pelvic tilts, bent knee trunk rotations, and knees to chest to start. It’s really easy to stretch your lower back and hips while you’re still in bed in the morning with these exercises!

Focusing on exercises like we did above is an excellent way to get your body moving to potentially avoid some of that morning stiffness.

If you've been diagnosed with a pinched nerve in your back, or think that you have that, you might be a bit more sore in the morning! Nothing to fear here, but you may benefit from a slightly different version of stretches for a pinched nerve in your lower back.

How do I relieve lower back pain when sleeping on my back?

The quick fix would be a night time stretching routine to relieve lower back pain, initially lying on a heating pad when you lay down, or rolling up a kitchen towel to place in the arch of your back when you first lie down. The long term fix would be to see a movement specialist to figure out WHY your back is hurting in the first place.

Everyone's back pain is unique. It is usually a matter of your activity or lack of activity during the day that is contributing to your symptoms. Inflammatory pain is worse at night and we also have less things to distract us at night so we are more receptive of the pain.

It is more common for people to have pain right when they lay down that goes away once they can fall asleep. However, if you are only having pain during the night that is waking you from sleeping, that is an important conversation to have with your physician.

Usually the mattress gets late for issues that are caused from activity or lack of activity during the day. Meeting with a specialist I can send the activities you’re doing during the day can help to alleviate that rebound pain and you may be feeling at night.

Why does my lower back hurt only in bed?

Is it very unlikely to be your beds fault and much more likely to be due to a movement pattern throughout the day or injury your body is healing from. Before you throw out your mattress and go buy something adjustable that promises you all of the relief you've been dreaming of, consult with a movement specialist to tease this out.

Need a few more stretches? Check out these next 5 stretches to relieve morning back stiffness.

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.

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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