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  • Best Stretching Exercises for Your Back

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    Low back pain is common amongst athletes and the general population. The pain can be due to many things such as an injury, limited mobility, performing exercises with bad form, sedentary lifestyle and more. Regardless of the cause, it can lead to discomfort for the individual. 

    Learn how to stretch properly to release that muscle tightness and increase mobility to improve your posture and feel better during your workouts.  

     

    Back Stretching Tips

     If you want the maximum benefit from stretching your back, using proper techniques is essential and an important way to avoid injuries. Be sure to use the following back stretching tips:

    • Stretching should not cause pain.  If it hurts, stop.
    • Wear comfortable clothing.
    • Avoid bouncing and move into each stretch slowly.  (This can cause muscle strain)
    • Perform stretches where you have enough space to move. 
    • Aim for 2-5 reps for each stretch while holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds.  A muscle reaches its maximum elongation after 4 reps.
    • Take turns stretching each side of your body. 
    • Don’t forget to breathe!
    • Check with your healthcare provider first before starting any workout or stretching regime.

     

    How To Stretch Your Lower Back

    According to the World Health Organization, low back pain is the No. 1 reason for missed work days worldwide! In the United States, low back pain is the fifth most common reason people visit the doctor. With 31 million Americans having low back pain at any given time, you aren’t alone!

    A common misconception is that resting helps the pain go away but instead, it is the opposite.  With inactivity, there is an increased risk of experiencing muscle strains, injuries, and more. Stretching is some of the best medicine you can do for yourself. Stretching on a regular basis can help reduce your lower back pain and prevent serious symptoms. 

    Finding the sweet spot to release the tension and pain in your lower back muscles can be difficult if you don't choose the right stretches for the job. Here are three stretches for lower back pain that almost everyone can do:

     

     

    Knee to Chest Stretch

    Following an afternoon at the computer or a long day while working in your yard, the knee to chest stretch not only feels great throughout the body but also restores some of your flexibility and reduces stiffness.

    1. Lie down on your yoga mat on your back with your knees bent and both of your heels on the floor.
    2. Put both of your hands behind your right knee and pull your knee towards your chest.
    3. Hold your knee against your chest for 30-60 seconds.
    4. Keep your core engaged while keeping your hips on the ground. 
    5. Release your knee and place your leg back to the starting position.
    6. Put both of your hands behind your left knee and repeat the same with that side.

    Bonus tip:  You can make this stretch even more difficult by simultaneously bringing both of your knees to your chest for 15–20 seconds. Do this at least 3 times with 30 seconds of rest between sets.

     

    Supine Twist

    The Supine Twist relieves the tension in your lower back while working your abdominals, back muscles, and the muscles around your pelvis.

    1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and both of your feet flat on the floor.
    2. Extend your arms out, so they create a “T”.
    3. While keeping your shoulders on the ground, roll both knees to the right side.
    4. Maintain position by keeping core engaged. 
    5. Hold for 10-20 seconds or up to when you feel a good stretch.
    6. Repeat on the left side.
    7. Repeat 5–10 times on each side.

     

    Supported Bridge

    You can decompress your lower back with the supported bridge stretch.

    1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and both of your feet flat on the floor.
    2. Lift your hips.
    3. Place your foam roller underneath your hips.
    4. Relax your body into the foam roller.  
    5. Hold that position for 30–60 seconds.
    6. Repeat 3–5 times. 

    By extending your legs from their bent position, you will increase the stretch in your lower back.

     

    How To Stretch Your Mid Back

    When you think about back pain, your thoughts immediately go to the lower or upper back pain.  However, pain in the middle of the back while not as common still happens!  Most often it  comes on slowly and occurs in youth and elderly populations, but anyone can have it.

    Middle back pain can be caused by several different problems including poor posture, obesity, muscle strain, falls, herniated disks, pressure on the nerves in the spine, Osteoarthritis, age, and vertebrae fractures.

    If you have been hunching over your desk all day, these lumbar extension exercises will offer you some relief.

     

     

    Cobra Stretch

    The Cobra Stretch is a great and common lumbar extension that can release that tension from being in too much flexion.

    1. Lie face down on the floor with your legs extended, and the tops of your feet resting on the floor.
    2. Put your hands under your shoulders. Bend your elbows and tuck your arms into your body.
    3. Breathe out, and push your legs and feet into the floor while using your arms to push up.
    4. Lift your head and chest from the floor.
    5. If you can, bend your back more by straightening your arms and lifting your chest even further from the floor. Only go as far as is comfortable and look up. 
    6. Hold for 20–30 seconds. 
    7. Repeat 2 more times.

     

    Lumbar Extension

    Another great way to do lumbar extension is by using the ProsourceFit arched back stretcher.

    1. Lie down on your back, legs straight out and arms straighten out on your sides.
    2. Place the arched back stretcher underneath. 
    3. The curve allows for full range motion while extending your back. 

     

    Cat-Cow Stretch

    This gentle spinal movement releases stiffness in your mid-back.

    1. Start on your hands and knees with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
    2. Press your palms into the ground and arch your back.  Round your spine while tucking in your pelvis, and let your head hang.
    3. Repeat 5-7 times.

     

    How To Stretch Upper Back

    Do you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders?  Then you probably have upper back pain.  Stress and tension are often felt in the muscles of your shoulders and upper back which then leads to neck pain, shoulder pain, and headaches. 

    Your upper back starts at the base of your neck, includes both of your shoulders, and extends down to your mid spine. One of the most common causes of upper back pain is muscle tension, degeneration of the facet joints, disc herniation, and posture.

    These simple upper back stretches can be done just about anywhere to stretch and dissolve tension as it builds.

     

     

    Butterfly Stretch

    The Butterfly Stretch is good for both your shoulders and upper back.

    1. Put your palms on opposite shoulders.
    2. Bring your elbows together to touch and hold for 5-10 seconds.
    3. Release.
    4. Repeat 3-5 more times.

     

    Scapular Squeeze

    The Scapular Squeeze is good for both your shoulders and upper back.

    1. Keep your arms down by your sides.
    2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 10-15 seconds.
    3. Release.
    4. Repeat 3-5 more times.

     

    Seated Levator Scapulae Stretch

    This stretch relieves tension on your neck and improves your posture.

    1. Sit in a chair.
    2. Grab the bottom of your chair with your right hand.
    3. Bring your chin in towards your chest and turn your head towards your left shoulder.
    4. Using your left arm/hand, push your head down looking towards your left armpit.  You should feel a stretch along the right side of your neck.
    5. Hold for 15-20 seconds.
    6. Repeat on the opposite side.
    7. Repeat three times on each side.

    Incorporate all of these back stretches into your daily routine to kick your back pain to the curb and feel your best.  You can also try an arched back stretcher from ProsourceFit if you’re looking for an easy to do full back stretch.

     

    Sources: 

    Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP). (2017, February 6). Quicker treatment of low back pain leads to faster improvement and lower healthcare costs and utilization. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 13, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170206084915.htm


    Jensen, M. C., Brant-Zawadzki, M. N., Obuchowski, N., Modic, M. T., Malkasian, D., & Ross, J. S. (1994). Magnetic resonance imaging of the lumbar spine in people without back pain. The New England journal of medicine331(2), 69–73. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM199407143310201


    Page P. (2012). Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. International journal of sports physical therapy7(1), 109–119.

    Steffens, D., Maher, C. G., Pereira, L. S., Stevens, M. L., Oliveira, V. C., Chapple, M., Teixeira-Salmela, L. F., & Hancock, M. J. (2016). Prevention of Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA internal medicine176(2), 199–208. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.7431

    Taimela, S., Kujala, U. M., Salminen, J. J., & Viljanen, T. (1997). The prevalence of low back pain among children and adolescents. A nationwide, cohort-based questionnaire survey in Finland. Spine22(10), 1132–1136. https://doi.org/10.1097/00007632-199705150-00013




    Johana Hernandez

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