The Best Stretches for Back Pain

The Best Stretches for Back Pain May Vary Depending Upon the Location of or the Reason for Your Pain

Chronic back pain is the 2nd leading cause of disability in the United States. There are numerous reasons we may suffer from back pain, including but not limited to degenerative disc disease, pinched or compressed nerves, ligament or muscle pull/strain, and a lack of proper exercise. Regardless of the reason, however, anyone who has experienced back pain recognizes how debilitating it can be. Some of my friends have insisted the pain from their back injuries was so severe, they could not get off the couch to even use the bathroom without assistance. For those of us who can’t afford a chiropractor, the best you can hope for in some occasions is a hot pack that soothes, some Vicks VapoRub massaged in by comforting hands, or some extra to free up to be spent on relaxing and healing.

But Dr. Axe recommends stretching to help alleviate several types of lower back pain.

Stretches can help build strength and flexibility

To Dr. Axe, the objective, regardless of the cause of pain, is always the same: reduce and eliminate the pain. To do this, he suggests strengthening and increasing the flexibility of the back muscles. Back pain related to a lack of exercise or tight/weak muscles are actually best treated this way. According to Dr. Axe, with a strong and flexible back, you can not only reduce back pain but also improve your posture and spinal stability, build lean muscle, and improve your balance.

Here are a few of the best stretches recommended for back pain, primarily lower back pain, suggested by Dr. Axe (please consult your physician before attempting any of these stretches or exercises to be sure they are right for your body or healing stage):

Seated Forward Fold

A beginner’s yoga stretch, this one stretches the lower back and backs of the legs. Begin seated on the mat or floor, legs outstretched in front of you, arms raised over your head. Now bend forward and stretch your body forward with arms still above your head with toes pulled in and up toward your shins. Here’s a video demonstration for you to follow.

The Arch Hold

The Arch Hold is done by lying on your belly face down on the floor with arms extended above your head so the inner part of the upper arms are beside the ears and the legs are stretched out long and extended. When you’re ready to stretch, you pull up tight on the upper and lower parts of the body to make a backwards banana shape arch, hold, and lower back down to a relaxed position. Do this several times. Watch this video from Gymnastics RX’d for guidance.

Swimmer’s Kicks

While you’re down in that same position, give the swimmer’s kicks a try. With both arms and legs extended as during the Arch Hold, pull up into a slight arch but “kick” your arms and legs slightly as if you’re swimming in air. Oxygen Magazine has a great demo here.

Bird Dog

The Bird Dog stretch is hard to explain, but it’s easily done once you watch this video demonstration. It’s great for core strengthening and building your balance.

Cat and Cow Pose

Starting on your hands and knees, this one is best done by watching a video for guidance first. It’s essentially an arch and then a reverse arch with in and out-breath on each — but let the professional explain it better than I can!

Forearm Plank

As shown in this video demonstration, the Forearm Plank starts with a hold on the forearms and toes, then squeeze your muscles and stay in the hold. After a few seconds to a minute, rest and repeat it at least twice more.

From the top of a push-up, or plank position, drop down to your forearms. Drive your forearms down into the floor as you pull your belly button up towards your spine. Engage your legs and squeeze your butt. Hold this position for one minute, rest, then repeat two more times

If you have trouble, follow along with this video for five great back stretches from WebMD instead.


  • As with all my articles, please consult a physician before attempting any of these stretches or exercises to make sure it’s right for your body or healing stage.


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