Lower Back and Hip Stretches
Lower Back and Hip Stretches
Sometimes, you want to lie down and let your muscles relax. You want to work in the garden, but your back is saying no. There are times you want to carry your grandkids or pets but your back is not cooperating.
For some, lower back pain is so debilitating that they would do anything to fix their back. Some people attach buzzing devices or rub gallons of ointments all over their back to manage the pain. However, for most people, exercises that target the hips and the lower back are enough to lessen back pain and return to activities of daily living.
After consulting with your doctor to make sure you are safe to start an exercise regiment, you can try out some of these lower back and hip stretches. Remember to ease into pain and never force through it. If you are unsure about how much pain is acceptable or would like some guidance when doing the following exercises, please contact us at westcoastsci.com
How Stretches Help Relieve Low Back Pain
Stretches reduce tension in the muscles supporting the spine, improving range of motion and mobility. Other benefits of stretches include:
- improving performance in physical activities
- increasing flexibility
- increasing blood flow to the muscles
- improving posture
- helping in healing and preventing back pain
How Hip Stretching Helps Improve Overall Wellness
Stretching does many wonders in preventing and decreasing tension, especially when combined with mindful breathing (if you’ve never heard of mindful breathing check out this video). It enables you to think more clearly by allowing adequate blood flow to reach painful areas of the body.
Conditions That May Contribute to Lower Back Pain
Different conditions cause low back pain. These include:
Compression of the nerve roots (the branches of nerves running off of the spinal cord).
Muscle or ligament strain
Sometimes, incorrect heavy lifting and repetitive lifting can strain the back muscles and ligaments, causing painful muscle spasms.
Bulging or ruptured disks
Also known as a slipped disk, this occurs due to sudden lifting or twisting of the back. The soft material surrounding the disk pushes against the nerve roots and spinal cord, resulting in compression of the nerve roots.
Facet joint sprain
These are the joints between the vertebrae. Just like any joint, these can be sprained if a sudden, unexpected force is applied to them.
As we age, the bones become brittle, resulting in painful fractures.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the material surrounding the spinal bones (vertebrae) wears down over time.
Common Lower Back and Hip Stretches
These easy stretches outlined below will help relieve hip pain and tension in your lower back. Some gentle stretches also work on your core muscles (abdominals, pelvic muscles, and back muscles).
Lower back and hip stretches to do at your desk
While at your desk, you can still do lower back and hip stretches. These exercises are very useful and can lessen lower back pain and hip pain.
- Your pelvis should be in a “neutral” position. In other words, don’t stick out your buttocks, but at the same time, don’t over tuck in your tailbone.
- You should be sitting tall and centered over your “sit” bones (ischial tuberosity = the bones in your buttocks).
- Throughout the exercise, avoid bending forward or holding your breath.
- Put your hands on your lower abs and draw your navel to your spine while bracing your abdominal muscles.
- Hold your breath, then relax.
Seated forward flexion stretch
- While seated, bend your upper body forward as far as you can go. Your arms should hang towards the floor.
- Do this exercise three times for 30 seconds.
- Be careful as you slowly sit back upright as you may feel a little faint or dizzy.
Seated backward stretch
- While seated, place your hands on your head like you’re relaxing at the beach.
- Slowly arch your back backward over the backrest (this only works if you have a low backrest, otherwise you can do this standing up – just be careful not to lose your balance.
- If you’re doing this exercise standing, stand close to a wall or a solid piece of furniture that you can use for support).
- Hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds and repeat 5 times.
Seated lateral trunk stretch
- Raise one arm over the head.
- Place your other hand on the left hip (for support).
- Bend to the opposite side.
- Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat 5 times.
You can also do this stretching exercise while standing with your feet.
Lower back and hip stretches for runners
If muscles are not stretched regularly, they can become shorter, even for runners. Strides can become shorter too. Here are some stretches and strengthening exercises that can help you stretch your back and hips, strengthen your quads and hips, activate glutes, and strengthen tight and weak hip flexors.
One-legged bridge lift and lower
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground.
- Extend one knee so that your leg is straight, keeping the thighs parallel to each other.
- Squeeze your buttocks together and lift them off the ground to make a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. There should be no rotation of the trunk or hips.
- Slowly lower your buttocks towards the ground then lift back up.
- Your head, shoulders and feet will be the only points of contact with the ground at the top position.
- Your foot can be completely on the ground or to make it more difficult, try from your heels.
8-10 reps or to fatigue, 3-4 sets
If this exercise proves too difficult, try doing this exercise with both feet firmly planted on the ground and lifting your buttocks off the ground.
Lunge stretch (for hip flexor)
- Kneel on one knee with the other knee bent at 90° with the foot solidly on the ground.
- Tilt your pelvis backward (tuck tailbone under).
- Shift your weight forward onto the front leg. Keep your back neutral, chest up.
- You should feel a stretch in the front of the hip of the back leg.
- Maintain the position when you feel a stretching sensation for 5 deep breaths
- Repeat on each leg 3X
Glute stretch (figure 4 stretch)
- Lie on your back and cross one leg over the other to create a figure 4.
- The crossed leg should be resting just above the ankle and resting on the opposite leg, just above the knee.
- Gently pull the lower thigh toward your chest, the knee of the bottom let will be bent as you pull towards you.
- You should feel a stretch deep in the buttock of the top leg.
- Maintain the position when you feel a stretching sensation.
- Hold for 30sec, repeat 2-3x/day.
Lower back and hip stretches for seniors
Hip stretches relieve pain (back pain, leg pain, knee pain, and hip pain). For seniors, their bones can be more brittle due to the reabsorption of calcium and phosphate from their bones.
Hip muscles are said to overcompensate in two ways. Either it becomes too flexible (injury), or it becomes too tight (risk of falls).
Here are some exercises that can help seniors stretch their hip and back. Feel free to try the other stretches and strengthening exercises in the other categories as well. As always, be sure to check with your doctor or health professional before starting an exercise program.
Lying butterfly stretch
- Lie on your back.
- Slide your heels towards you, while bending your knees
- Keep your ankle/feet together
- Let your knees drop slowly away from each other towards the ground
- You feel a comfortable stretch in your groin region.
- Relax and hold for at least 30 seconds
- Repeat 3 times
*NOTE* Be careful with this stretch if you’ve never done it before. Take it slow and make sure to breathe throughout the movement. If you feel pain in your neck, shoulders, or back, stop.
- Lie down on your stomach with your palms on the floor directly under your shoulders.
- Your feet should be pointed away from you for comfort.
- Keep your elbows to your sides and press your hands firmly into the floor
- Begin to lift your chest into a mild backward bend.
- Without lowering your chest, draw your shoulders away from your ears. This will cause you to lengthen your neck while lifting the base of your skull away from your shoulders. It should feel good
- Hold for 3-5 slow, deep breaths
- Slowly lower yourself back to the floor
- Repeat 3-5 times
Knee to chest
- Lie on your back with your legs straight
- Your back should be in a neutral position, meaning there should be a slight arch or space between the ground and your lower back.
- Bring one knee towards your chest grasping it with both hands
- Pull the knee in as close as you can towards you until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of the thigh, buttocks or low back.
- Maintain the stretch for about 30 seconds and slowly return to the start position.
- Repeat 3-5 times on each leg
Lower back and hip pregnancy stretches
For pregnant women, stretches should help decrease hip and lower back pain, strengthen the back, and increase spinal mobility. These stretching exercises should ward off additional pain caused by a growing abdominal area.
*Note* If you are pregnant, please be sure to check with your doctor (or medical team) to make sure it is safe to do these exercises. In the later terms (term 3), you should avoid lying flat on your back.
Here are some back and hip exercises pregnant women should practice.
Cat-cow (also known as cat-camel)
- Start on your hands and knees with your back in a neutral position (straight with the natural curvature in your back)
- Your hands should be placed under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- As you breathe in, look underneath you towards your feet. Your shoulders will naturally elevate.
- Think about “tucking” your tailbone underneath you. Think scared Halloween cat
- As you exhale, look up towards the sky, your chest will naturally drop
- At the same time, stick out your buttocks and think about dropping your belly towards the ground and out as you lift up your head (this is the camel or cow position)
- Repeat 5-10 times, making sure to breath in and out slowly
Pelvic tilt exercises
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Tuck your tailbone under you (flatten the low back), and then go the opposite way (arch in low back)
- Hold for one breath in each position
- Repeat 5-10 times
Lower back and hip flexor stretches
If you’re sitting at your desk the whole day, you can try some of these stretches to ease hip flexor strain by stretching and strengthening your lower back and hips.
Lumbar rotation stretch
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and together and feet flat on the floor.
- Drop both of your knees to one side, put one hand on top and hold the position.
- Keep your shoulders on the floor the entire time.
- Hold 30 seconds and then rotate your knees to the opposite side.
- Repeat 3-5 times on each side
Standing hip flexor stretch
Start by standing with one foot in front of the other. You want to have a decent amount of space between your feet
Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart.
Tilt your pelvis backward (tucking your tail between your legs).
Shift your weight onto your front leg while slightly bending your front knee
You should start to feel a stretch at the top of your front hip of your back leg.
Maintain the position when you feel a stretching sensation.
Hold for 30 seconds and then switch legs
Try 3 times on each side
This stretch can also be done in a half kneel (1 knee on the ground and 1 foot on the floor = kneeling on 1 knee)
- Start by kneeling on your hands and knees
- Your hands and knees should be shoulder-distance apart.
- Your hands should be directly under your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips
- Slow move your hips backward and your lower buttocks towards your heels
- You should feel a slight stretch in your lower back and possibly your shoulders.
Hip and lower back pain is no fun. Do these exercises two to three times a week. Just remember that before you start, do some light cardio first, like brisk walking, climbing up and down a couple of flights of stairs, low-impact jumping jacks, or squat to jab. Whether you’re pregnant, a senior, or at your desk the whole day, these lower back and hip stretches will help you get back on your feet in no time.
If you are unsure of where to start, have questions or just need some guidance, please feel free to reach out to one of our amazing team members at Westcoast SCI. We’re just a mouse click away!
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