Lower Back Stretching Tips

Lower back stretching, just like all stretching, should be performed for a specific reason... not just for the sake of including it in your regular workouts.

There is absolutely no sense in stretching a muscle that already possesses a normal range of motion. To do so you risk creating a hyper-mobile joint (too flexible) thus making it more susceptible to sprain and joint arthritis.

Since time is limited and a valuable resource, it certainly doesn’t make much sense wasting your time and energy doing that which is not needed.

Basic Back Stretching Suggestions

These four basic back stretching suggestions will help you plan your muscle stretching routine:

  1. Muscle and joints should be assessed for range of motion and only those that exhibit true restriction should be targeted for stretching.
  2. Evaluate and identify any contributing or aggravating factors.
  3. Choose specific exercises.
  4. Set reasonable goals.
  5. Monitor your progress to assess the need for any change to your back stretching exercises.
  6. Continue stretching after you have achieved the desired range of motion. It is a good bet that if you don't the same muscles will become restricted again.

Let's take each of these back stretching suggestions and expound a bit on them.

1. Assess need for stretching.

Assess the range of motion of your muscles by going through the various ranges noting any stiffness, tightness or reduced range. If there is normal range it is probably wise to avoid stretching exercises that target those associated muscles.

Muscle spasm causing joint and muscle restriction due to a recent injury (acute) is a protective mechanism of the body to prevent further tissue damage. Your healing process should be permitted to go on without too much early intervention. Do not initiate any stretching of injured tissue during the acute stage (minimum 72 hours after injury).

At this stage of the healing, the best treatment approach is one of inflammation control and pain management. Pain is protective. It stops you from over-using and causing further damage to the injured tissue. Inflammation is necessary for proper repair and healing. Without inflammation your body would not heal. Control the inflammation but do not try to prevent or stop it prematurely. This is best accomplished with ice, nutrition, rest, structured activities and rehabilitative measure such as: gentle range of motion exercises, and correction of any existing postural and structural deficits.

2. Identify all contributing or aggravating factors.

Are the muscles tight and restricted due to neurological effects, poor posture, overuse or under-use, trigger points, inadequate diet, or prescription drugs?

Back stretching may be futile if the real cause of the restriction is trigger points due to a pelvic tilt caused by a short leg as a result of fallen arches and pronation.

Sounds complicated doesn't it? It really isn't if you assess the structure and function from the feet upwards in a systematic manner.

If you have trigger points that are causing your restriction of motion or muscle tightness, stretching can be performed along with trigger point therapy.

At the same time you can take action to correct the pelvic tilt, fallen arches and pronation by using custom-fitted and custom-made orthotics and a heel lift if needed.

Ignore any one of these contributing or associated factors and your results will be limited or never fully achieved.

Perhaps you have muscle spasm or hypertonic muscles due to a calcium and magnesium imbalance or deficiency. Simply stretching all day long will not be effective until the nutritional needs are met.

Also, some prescription drugs have side-effects that cause muscle disease, electrolyte imbalances and other effects that can cause muscle spasm or restrictions.

3. Choose specific muscle stretches.

Back stretching exercises need to be chosen based on which stretches target the muscle(s) needing stretched. For example, lower back motion includes flexion, extension, twisting, lateral bending or a combination of these actions.

If you have restriction on flexion then you need to find the muscles that are restricting that motion and target them for stretching. Is it the quadratus lumborum, multifidus, sacrospinalis, glutes or hamstrings? Why stretch the glutes if the culprit is the hamstrings?

You should be able to feel which muscles are needing stretched as they will be tight and uncomfortable as you move into your stretched position.

4. Set reasonable goals.

We all want over-night healing. But let's be sensible and realistic.

Healing takes time.

You need to be a "patient" patient.

Set realistic goals. For example: 50% reduction in pain after 3-7 days, 80% in two- four weeks and 100% by 6-8 weeks. Range of motion 75% better in one month and 100% by the end of 6 weeks.

If your condition is chronic or long-standing, and not the result of a recent injury, your progress may be quicker compared to that of a more severe recent injury.

Don't just set stretching or range of motion goals. Set strength building and pain reduction goals as well. Strength and pain will effect your ability to stretch. If you have too much pain stretching may be aggravating and counter-productive. Strength exercise will have an effect on tissue elasticity and influence range of motion neurologically in a positive or favorable manner.

If you are in too big of a hurry and attempt to perform back stretching to aggressively you may cause a strain injury and this will only prolong your time before you are able to reach your goals.

5. Monitor progress.

You've been stretching faithfully for four weeks and those hamstrings and quadratus lumborum muscles just don't seem to be releasing and relaxing to allow for a normal range of motion.

You still have lower backache and stiffness. What should you do?


...Have you missed a pelvic tilt?

...Did you properly assess your nutrition?

...Are you still sleeping on your stomach?

...Are you wearing the proper shoes?

...Are you doing your daily walking as part of your fitness and rehab program?

...Is your work posture chronically irritating your lower back?

Keep looking for problems. Keep improving your habits. Keep searching for ways you can become better.

6. Prevention.


You have made the necessary changes. You are exercising daily and constantly improving your lifestyle. You are feeling better. Your range of motion is almost normal. Your strength and endurance is improving almost daily. You have lost 50 pounds and still have more to lose. You purchased good shoes and great orthotics.

Now... don't quit or let up.

Keep doing what got you to this point.

Change To Get Change

The saying goes, “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.”

To affect change you must change. To maintain your positive results you must continue to do what got you those results.

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