Two-thirds of Americans will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives, according to APTA. This is an astounding number of people! To make matters worse, nearly half of these people don’t ever seek treatment. There’s no reason to live in pain! These Yoga Positions for Lower Back Pain are a great way to reduce and even fix your pain for good! Practicing Yoga is an excellent idea if you want to improve your quality of life. Of course, if you’re experiencing any kind of pain, you should definitely speak to a doctor before beginning a new routine.
Almost every yoga position is modifiable, meaning that no matter what level of flexibility you’re currently at, there’s a way to make it work for you. It’s always a great idea to make sure that you’re nice and warmed up before you begin a stretching routine. Warm muscles will be more malleable and decrease the risk of further injury. Go for a walk or spend a few minutes gently peddling on a bike to warm-up.
It’s about more than the Back Muscles
We asked the experts for their opinions on stretching for relieving lower back pain, and we received some great insight. Doctor of Physical Therapy, Heather Jeffcoat, had this to say:
The best stretches are ones that stretch not just directly over the lower back, but also get to surrounding structures. Since our bodies move in many planes of motion, it is important to not just do stretches that are “forward,” but also that are “forwards and with rotation,” which stretches muscle and fascia more efficiently together.”
She recommended a standing modified Pigeon Pose as an example, which is number 4 on our list, below. She continued,
By adding this rotational component, you get a deeper and more effective stretch that incorporates the low back and gluteal muscles and takes into account fascial lines as well. Once the patient improves their mobility with this stretch, we can move to a more traditional pigeon pose on the floor, that add’s the hip flexor stretch.
Discomfort Vs. Pain
Amanda Johnson, who is also a Doctor of Physical Therapy made an excellent point that we wanted to highlight. She said:
The body was meant to move in every direction, but if there is pain, certain movements should be limited. She continued, “Stretching is generally uncomfortable at first, so discomfort is fine, but pain is not.”
If any specific motions or positions cause sharp, or even dull pain, it is advised that you discontinue the movement and consult your doctor.
Yoga Positions for Lower Back Pain
What you need: A soft surface, towel or yoga mat.
What to do: Hold each pose for a minimum of 60 seconds. If you feel that you need to hold one longer, that’s totally fine! It’s imperative that you control your breathing throughout the entirety of the routine. This will allow you to get a deeper stretch and promote better posture. We’ve included instructional videos for each pose below. These 7 moves will take approximately 10 minutes as 3 of the stretches require single-leg holds.
1. Child’s Pose
This pose is an excellent way to start out because it will align and lengthen the spine. So often, lower back pain is caused by spinal compression. This occurs when we sit, slouch or even stand for too long. This pose is one of my favorites! It’s simple yet SO relaxing.
2. Cat Cow
The Cat Cow pose focuses on spinal mobility. This pose will improve muscle stiffness, which happens to be another common cause of low back pain. One of the greatest benefits of this pose is that it teaches you what your neutral spine should feel like. These days we spend way too much time hunched over computers and phones or slouched on the couch. Good posture can work wonders on lower back pain!
3. Downward Dog
This pose will lengthen not just your spine, but your entire posterior chain. Sometimes, low back pain isn’t caused by an issue in the back at all but around the back. If your legs and hips are tight your spine can be forced into an unnatural position. Downward Dog will lengthen these muscles in order to relieve your lower back pain.
4. Standing Pigeon Pose
The standing pigeon pose is an excellent way to stretch not only your lower back, but your gluteal muscles, as well. Working to reduce tightness in the muscles can work wonders on relieving low back pain.
5. Supine Piriformis (Per Side)
The piriformis stretch is another one of my all time favorites! It feels SO wonderful! This pose will stretch your glutes, thighs and hips. Tightness in any of these body parts can cause low back pain.
6. Knee Rocks
This one is a great lower back and hip opener to prepare you for the Supine Twist. If you’re lucky, you may feel a few pops and cracks along your spine as it loosens you up.
7. Supine Twist (Per Side)
This pose focuses on opening up space in the lower back that commonly gets very tight. You’ll feel it all the way up your spine as it releases all of those tight spinal muscles. The supine twist will also work on ‘shoulder hunch’ as it improves your posture.
Standing Modified Pigeon Pose
Protecting from Reinjury
In addition to her insight above, Dr. Jeffcoat shared 3 rules that we should keep in mind throughout the recovery process and beyond. These 3 rules are:
1) Bend with your knees, not with your back (Squatting with a neutral spine is healthy for the back and puts less strain the injured muscles or nerves that may be affected)
2) Keep objects you are carrying or lifting close to your center of gravity, which is roughly at your belly button level.
3). Never rotate your back as you are lifting. Also, the reverse activity is much more likely to injure you, so you should never rotate your spine as you placing something on the ground. Always pivot your body and face what you are lifting. It isn’t all about lifting, either. Patients can reinjure themselves picking up a pen off the floor. Bending over with your knees straight puts a force of about 140% of your body weight through your lower lumbar discs. The muscles in your lower back, in turn, must support this weight. Repeated exposure to 140% of your body weight will delay healing and potentially lead to reinjury.”
You can repeat these yoga positions for lower back pain as often as you’d like. It doesn’t take long for your back to get tight so if you can manage to perform these stretches daily, you’ll notice the best results! I know it seems like I have a lot of “favorite” stretches… that’s because I do! One stretch won’t heal you, but make these yoga positions for lower back pain a part of your routine, and I promise you’ll find relief. Yoga for lower back pain can change your life for the better!
I know that we talked a lot about muscle tightness as a cause of lower back pain today, but muscle weakness can also play a role. Try this Lower Back Bodyweight Workout to strengthen and avoid back pain.