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10 Best Stretches to Relieve Lower Back Pain

10 Best Stretches to Relieve Lower Back Pain

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

Stretching is an excellent place to start to relieve lower back pain and loosen back muscles. Learning a bit more about why you hurt can even help you to experience less pain. Without further ado, here are our top 10 stretches to relieve lower back pain relief in no time:

  1. Prayer with Posterior Pelvic Tilt 
  2. Prayer with Bias
  3. Trunk Rotation
  4. Knees to Chest
  5. Glute Stretch 
  6. Glute Stretch with Extra Range of Motion Pull
  7. Windmill 
  8. Prone Press Up
  9. Hip Flexor Stretch 
  10. Standing L Stretch 

We have broken each of these stretches down below with helpful positioning tips from the shared brain of three physical therapists. But first, let's clear up one threatening belief.

Is low back pain serious?

90% of the time, low back pain isn't "serious".

Anytime you are hurting, your pain is IMPORTANT; however, it is often not harmful.

How many of us have experienced an episode of nonspecific low back pain at some point in our lives? The research tells us that number lies over 90%. The common narrative is to “rest” or “take it easy” while we recover. The common thread in the treatment of low back pain is the restoration of pain free movement. 

Scientific evidence is revealing that movement may be the medicine that our body needs in order to recover.

Low back pain is considered to be a leading cause of disability worldwide. Despite the high prevalence, low back pain is grossly misunderstood. Factors that contribute to low back pain include obesity, genetics, stress, work demands, posture, or even your emotional state.. There are a multitude of variables that can lead to low back pain, which can make it difficult to treat.

Luckily, there are interventions that don’t involve pills or surgery that are proven to be effective, like stretching! Lets dive into some specifics on these 10 stretches to relieve your lower back pain.

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


1. Prayer with Posterior Pelvic Tilt 

A girl doing a child's pose with a pelvic tilt
Prayer with Posterior Pelvic Tilt

The prayer stretch works in a couple of different ways. It’s a great position to begin the stretching program. It allows the spine to flex and extend, priming the vertebrae for the upcoming stretches. Do your best to find a flat surface that will allow you to remain stable throughout the movement. Start with your hands under the shoulders and knees in line with the hips. From there, tilt your pelvis so that it is underneath you. Think about contracting your abs. Arch your back up like a cat then rock backwards bringing your hips down to the back of your legs. Make sure you keep your hands where they started as you go back. Hold this pose for about one full breath then return to the starting position. 

2. Prayer stretch with Bias

A girl completing child's pose while bending to the side
Prayer stretch with Bias

This stretch is very similar to the prayer with posterior pelvic tilt. If you are experiencing stiffness more on one side than the other, we can use this stretch to isolate the painful side. The setup is the same as prayer with posterior pelvic tilt. The difference is that you will take one hand and bring it to the opposite side, placing it just on the outside hand that is planted. This stretch is a great way to find any asymmetries and target the tighter side. 

3. Trunk Rotation

A girl lying on her back rocking her knees side to side
Trunk Rotation

This stretch is done while laying on your back with your knees bent to about 90 degrees. This position is very common for people to default to when they are experiencing low back pain because it allows the spine to sit in neutral. The stretch should be gentle in that you allow gravity to assist your knees as they fall to one side. Once laying on your back with knees bent, allow your legs to gently fall to one side of the body. Only take it to a range that you are comfortable with then let the legs fall to the opposite side. The stretch can be enhanced by placing one leg across the other which pulls the lumbar spine into a deeper stretch. This exercise allows the vertebrae to rotate on one another and usually feels good to those who are in pain.

4. Knees to Chest

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

Knees to chest is pretty much how it sounds. It is also done while laying on your back. Begin with your knees bent around 90 degrees. Lift the legs up and try to wrap your arms around both knees and pull them towards your chest. If the stretch is too much, or you are feeling too tight, you can use one leg at a time. Although we are trying to target the lower back, this stretch may also be felt in the hips. If your knees hurt from grabbing them, try grabbing behind you knees instead. 

5. Glute Stretch 

A girl lying on her back pulling her bent knee towards her opposite arm
Glute Stretch

Although the glutes aren’t technically part of the lower back they can be a culprit with a stiff back. The glutes attach to the lower back and can contribute to a pull on the musculature of the lumbar spine.  This stretch is also done while laying on your back. With this stretch we want to follow the muscle fibers of the glutes. It begins by bringing one leg up towards the body, much like the knee to chest stretch. The change is that we are going to bring that leg across the body to bias the glutes muscle fibers. 

6. Glute Stretch with Extra Range of Motion Pull

A girl lying on her back, bringing her bent knee towards her opposite arm, and rotating away.
Glute Stretch with Extra Range of Motion Pull

This stretch is an advancement of the standard glute stretch. It allows for further range. The setup is the same as the glute stretch. Keep one leg bent and cross one leg over the other with the outside ankle on the inside of the knee that is planted. Use the opposite hand to grab the outside of the leg that is placed on the other and pull across the body to get a deeper stretch. 

7. Windmill 

A girl lying on her back with her arms out in a T, rotating her legs all the way to each side

The windmill stretch is focused less on the muscles and more on the joints. Once again, we are gearing these stretches to restore movement to the lower back. This exercise is done while laying on your side with the knees bent to around 90 degrees. Use the arm that is up (not on the table) and open up and rotate the body, opening up the chest. Make sure you are breathing during each rep so that you are exhaling towards the end of the movement. 

8. Prone Press Up

A girl lying on her stomach, pushing up through her arms while keeping her hips on the table
Prone Press Up

Start with laying on your stomach. Start this stretch by just coming up on to the elbows. This is the first level of the stretch. If this position feels good then it can be progressed by extending the elbows and pressing yourself up. This movement is similar to a push up, with the caveat being that your hips will stay firmly on to the table while you press through the hands, bringing the rest of your body up.  Be sure to listen to your body with this stretch. It can be intense for some individuals. If this movement makes your pain worse, it can be regressed by just laying on your stomach. 

9. Hip Flexor Stretch 

A girl kneeling in a half lunge position and rocking forwards
Hip Flexor Stretch

Start in the tall kneeling position. It can help to place a pillow or foam pad under the knees to improve comfort. Once there, you will bring one leg out in front so that you are in a lunge position with one knee on the pillow and the other foot planted out in front. Once here, you will want to rock forward. This stretch targets the hip flexors. The hip flexors attach to the spine as well as the hip. When they are tight they can cause the pelvis to tilt and increase strain on the lower back. 

10. Standing L Stretch 

A girl leaning forward with her hands on a counter until her trunk and legs make a L
Standing L Stretch 

This stretch is done in standing with the hands on an elevated surface such as a countertop. The stretch is done by placing the hands on the counter top and stepping back so that the arms are fully extended. Once there you will drop the body down while keeping your hands on the counter top. This stretch targets the latissimus dorsi (lats), which are a connection between your upper body and lower back. 

Can stretching reduce lower back pain? 

Yes, a great way to reduce low back pain, address stiffness, and improve poor mobility in the lumbar spine is stretching. One of the safer and easier places to start when you are experiencing low back pain is targeted stretching. Many times, during an episode of low back pain, the muscles respond by shortening or tightening. This may be beneficial acutely, but can cause issues long term if not addressed.

A 2020 study compared hip strengthening, stretching, and gentle massage for the treatment of non specific low back pain. The researchers found that there was a significant improvement in pain and function with both the strength and stretching group compared to the gentle massage. Stretching and movement in general has shown to help those who are suffering with low back pain.

Exercise can produce what's called “hypoalgesia.” That’s a fancy word for pain reduction. Studies have shown an increase in pain threshold associated with exercise, specifically those that involve holding a position such as these stretches. Above, we discussed the 10 best stretches to improve the mobility of the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine. 

What is the best way to loosen tight lower back muscles?

The best way to loosen tight lower back muscles is via gentle motion or stretching done consistently throughout the day, several days in a row. If you're unsure what motions are best to start with, try out 10 stretches we have outlined above!

These stretches are done in a way that is safe and effective to target the pain and stiffness in the lower back. The positions are focused on using the movements associated with the spine and doing them in a way that will reduce pain and improve function. 

Most of the stretches are targeted to stretch the muscles of the hip as well as the lower back itself. It is important to remember that we must look at the body as whole. Just because the lower back is where you feel the pain, doesn’t mean that other structures may not be contributing. 

Lower back pain exercises to avoid

If you are trying to resolve your back pain on your own, avoid exercises that make you feel worse afterwards. If you are working with a movement professional, such as a physical therapist, then there may be some level of discomfort that is appropriate depending on your specific situation.

Our back is extremely stable and can withstand a tremendous amount of load.

The common trap that many people find themselves in, is a negative feedback loop where movement hurts, so we avoid movement. However, one of the higher rated interventions used to treat low back pain is low level aerobic activity. When we avoid movement our bodies have an uncanny ability to adapt to a new paradigm of poor mobility. This causes a cascade of issues that can affect multiple systems of the body. 

While you don't want to do exercises that make your pain worse, if you notice that your threshold decreasing for the amount of activities you can complete without increasing your pain, then seek help from a movement professional!

If you are looking for more guidance on quick and safe routine to start, check out our 10-minute at home lower back workout

Core strengthening exercises for lower back pain

Your entire core consist of your front and side belly muscles, pelvic floor, back muscles, hip muscle, and even some large shoulder muscles that attach to our pelvis. The overall concept here being doing SOMETHING is better than doing NOTHING.

If you really want to get a solid core strengthening plan for lower back pain going without doing the work of creating it yourself, check out Efficient Exercises for Core Strength Training: Core Exercises for Women, Men, Adults and Seniors.

Want to learn more: Easy lower back pain core strengthening exercises at home.

One stretch to relieve back pain

If we had to pick just one stretch, it would be the kneeling hip flexor stretch. Our hip flexors attach our thighs, through our pelvic, and to our lower lumbar spine. They get stiff when we sit, which a lot of us spend way too much time doing between our commute, work, and lazy home time! Here is a review of the hip flexor stretch from above to save you some scroll time.

A girl kneeling in a half lunge, rocking forwards
Kneeling hip flexor stretch to relieve back pain

Start in the tall kneeling position. It can help to place a pillow or foam pad under the knees to improve comfort. Once there, you will bring one leg out in front so that you are in a lunge position with one knee on the pillow and the other foot planted out in front. Once here, you will want to rock forward. This stretch targets the hip flexors. The hip flexors attach to the spine as well as the hip. When they are tight they can cause the pelvis to tilt and increase strain on the lower back. 

Lower back pain stretches in bed

Almost all of the above exercises can also be done in bed, similarly to how we show them being done on a cushioned table! These stretches would make an excellent warm up in the morning to start your day, but would also be gentle enough for you to work through if you are having a muscle spams. Bookmark this page for a quick go to routine for those future back spasms.

In summary

Stretching is an effective and safe way to address low back pain. The common theme throughout these stretches is they work together to restore pain free movement to the spine. This sequence of stretches takes the back and the surrounding musculature through common movements that you may encounter throughout the day.

The goal is to build tissue resiliency that can withstand everyday demands.

It's a great morning routine to prepare your back for the day. There is an equal benefit to doing these after a long day of sitting at a desk. Implementing a stretching routine can be the catalyst that leads to more activity which will further improve the resiliency of the back. Although there is no magic pill to relieve lower back pain, a targeted, concise stretching program is a great place to start. 

Chronic pain has a detrimental impact on society. It has destroyed families, leads to unemployment, and traps people in a state of imprisonment where their every decision is controlled by pain.

Revision Health Services aims to provide its consumers with evidenced based, proven techniques to empower people to take control of their lives.

Something as simple as stretching can give you the confidence that movement is safe and have a profound impact on the management of low back pain. So take a deep breath and lets get moving!

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.


  1. George SZ, Fritz JM, Silfies SP, Schneider MJ, Beneciuk JM, Lentz TA, Gilliam JR, Hendren S, Norman KS. Interventions for the Management of Acute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Revision 2021. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2021 Nov;51(11):CPG1-CPG60. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2021.0304. PMID: 34719942.
  2. Kim B, Yim J. Core Stability and Hip Exercises Improve Physical Function and Activity in Patients with Non-Specific Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2020 Jul;251(3):193-206. doi: 10.1620/tjem.251.193. PMID: 32669487.

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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