You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

When Life Gives You Back Pain, Try These Moves

Popsugar logo Popsugar 4/11/2017 Susi May

a person standing on a dirt road © POPSUGAR Photography / Kat Borchart When your low back is feeling cranky, tender, and tight, you might think it best to just sit there and do nothing. I can tell you from experience that sitting is one of the worst things you can do for a sore back. You need to get your spine mobile and then stretch — and I am not talking about anything dramatic like touching your toes with a deep forward bend. Here are some simple exercises and stretches that, when done in this prescribed order, will help relieve low back pain. 

Cat and Cow

Cat and Cow © POPSUGAR Photography Cat and Cow

This is a classic active back stretch and is a great place to start. Rounding and arching the back warms up the spine and primes the back muscles for stretching.

  • Begin on your hands and knees. Exhale and round your spine up to the ceiling, pulling your abs toward your spine while simultaneously tucking your tailbone in and drawing your chin toward your chest. This part is known as Cat.
  • Inhale, letting your belly soften as you arch your back, lifting your head and tailbone toward the ceiling. This part of the stretch is called Cow.
  • Flow back and forth between the two positions for five to 10 reps.

Side-to-Side Cat

a woman sitting on a desk: Side-to-Side Cat © POPSUGAR Photography Side-to-Side Cat

The spine moves in multiple directions, and it's important to warm up the spine in the lateral direction too. This variation on the Cat primes the spine to move side to side while stretching the muscles on either side of the spine.

  • Begin on all fours; keeping your spine in neutral, bend sideways to the left to look at your butt. You're making a "C" shape with your spine that's parallel to the floor.
  • Reverse directions and bend right. Repeat for five to 10 reps.

Twisted Cat

a woman lying on the ground: Twisted Cat © POPSUGAR Photography Twisted Cat

Twisting the spine is a great way to relieve low back pain and stretch the entire back. Doing this movement on your hands and knees is incredibly safe, so start twisting in the position before twisting on your back or seated.

  • On all fours, reach your right arm toward the ceiling on an inhale.
  • Exhale and rotate through your ribs to reach your arm toward the left. Repeat for a total of five reps, then switch sides, reaching your left arm to the ceiling for five more reps.

Child's Pose

person lying on the floor: Child's Pose © POPSUGAR Photography / Louisa Larson Child's Pose

After mobilizing your spine in all directions with active stretching, it's time for a passive stretch and to focus on your breath, lengthening your back.

  • Kneel on your mat with your knees, and lie your torso down onto your thighs. Lengthen your neck and spine, and rest your forehead on the mat. If this is difficult for you, place your palms on the mat under your forehead.
  • With your forehead on the mat, you can rest you hands on either side of your pelvis with your palms up, or for a bigger stretch, extend your arms out in front of you.
  • In this position, focus on breathing into your back ribs, feeling your back muscles open and stretch with each inhale.
  • Stay here for five breaths, or longer if needed, then walk your hands to the right, so your spine is making a crescent shape, increasing the stretch on the left side. Stay here for five breaths, then walk your hands to the left side to stretch the right side of your back.

Supine Twist

a woman in a red shirt: Supine Twist © POPSUGAR Photography Supine Twist

Twisting the spine can offer relief for your entire back. Once you've warmed up your spine with all those Cat/Cows, a little rotation will likely feel good.

  • Lying on your back, extend your arms out to your side as an anchor. Bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor.
  • Starting the movement from your core, rotate your knees to the right, allowing them to come to the floor. It's OK if your left shoulder comes off the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, about five full deep breaths. Then, slowly bring the knees back to the center.
  • Reverse directions and twist to the left. Repeat as needed.

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

a woman lying on the ground: Knee-to-Chest Stretch © POPSUGAR Photography Knee-to-Chest Stretch

This stretch is great for resetting the spine and waking up your abs. Pulling the abs to the spine should help increase the stretch in your back.

  • Lie on your back with your legs extended.
  • Gently bend your right knee into your chest. Clasp your hands in front of your shin, and gently pull down to increase the stretch. Increase the stretch by bringing your head toward your knee while pulling your abs toward your spine.
  • Focus on the front left hip lengthening and relaxing into the floor.
  • Hold for 15 to 20 seconds and then repeat with the left knee bent. Do the stretch at least twice on each side.

More From Popsugar

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon