The nice thing about gentle stretching is that it is feasible to do when you are in pain—and often provides the fastest relief.
A few tips to keep in mind before you get started
Aim to hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds and preferably 30 seconds or longer. The pain-relieving benefits will increase the longer you hold these stretches.
Rather than rush through the moves, Costello recommends turning on soothing music and using this stretching time as a chance to relax and renew.
Do not forget to breathe! It may sound silly, but focusing on using your breath can help you cope with any feelings of discomfort.
This common yoga pose gently stretches the muscles of the low back, which are likely contracted if you’re in pain.
How to do childs pose: Begin in tabletop position with your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Extend your arms out in front of you, placing your palms flat on the floor. Slowly sit your hips back toward your heels, dropping your head and chest downward as your arms extend further and reach for the wall in front of you. If this stretch is too much, place a pillow under your belly to prop yourself up a bit and lessen the stretch of the low-back muscles. Hold this pose for 20 to 30 seconds or even longer.
This dynamic movement moves the low back muscles in two directions, building on Child’s Pose to help lengthen contracted muscles and soothe soreness.
How to do it: Begin on your hands and knees on the floor, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Your spine should be parallel to the ground in this position. Then, round your back, stretching your mid-back between your shoulder blades—similar to how a cat stretches by rounding its back. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax and let your stomach fall downward as you gently arch your low back and hold here for 5 seconds. Repeat these movements for 30 seconds or longer.
This movement not only helps to stretch your lower back but also your glutes, which can tighten when you are experiencing low back pain, ultimately causing more pain.
How to do it: Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms out to the side in a "T" position. Keep your shoulders on the ground as you gently roll both knees to one side. Stay here 20 to 30 seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. If the stretch is too much for you, place a pillow or stack of blankets under your knees when you twist to each side.
Similar to the other stretches here, this move lengthens contracted low back muscles.
How to do it: Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring your hands to rest either behind your knees or right below your kneecaps. Slowly bring both knees toward your chest, using your hands to gently pull your knees. Hold here 20 to 30 seconds, then return to starting position.
The Pelvic Tilt
When you are suffering from lower-back pain, you might feel as if your entire pelvic area is immovable. This stretch can help you start to bring some movement back to this area gently.
How to do it: Begin by lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Try to relax your low back, keeping it in a neutral position (which means you should feel a slight curve in your low back if you place the top of your hand under your back). Turn "on" your core muscles and then flatten your low back against the floor by slightly tilting your pelvis upward. Repeat 12 to 15 times.