If you’ve ever hurt your back, it was likely some combination of forward flexion (rounding forward especially at the low back to pick up, say, a baby, or a bag of peat moss) plus twisting (moving the baby or the peat moss laterally from your centre of balance, without un-rounding the spine). Usually this feels something like “Ping!” plus “Oh Crud!” (or other choice words!).
Sometimes it’s not as dramatic as this. Often the low back can ache dully from excessive sitting or rounding forward. Tune in to your position right now. Do you have that sexy low back curve, that inward dip just above your butt? Reach around and feel if you can’t tell.
Often we are in the habit of tucking our booty underneath us, which can flatten out our natural low back curve. The way our spinal cord works, this flattening out puts pressure on the fronts of our intervertebral discs (those little shock absorbers between vertebrae). If these discs slip or become deformed from this pressure, it can cause extreme pain as the nerves of the spine have something pressing against them (“Oh Crud!”).
Less dramatically, a flattened low back can stretch the muscles of the low back and lock them long. They become too long and too weak to support us, making them feel achy or stiff more easily.
Okay so now what? First of all, if you’re in a ton of pain, see your professional healthcare provider – these stretches aren’t meant to be a substitute for medical advice. If you’re good to go for regular physical activity, you might find these stretches helpful: they are meant to restore your natural lumbar curve and decompress the spine to feel better.
- Down Dog at the Wall: Place your hands on the wall at hip height, step back so you can make a right angle with your hips. Bend your knees and “twerk” your booty back to restore your low back curve. Press your hands into the wall and with each deep breath, stretch your spine long. Often we don’t even realize how rounded of flat our low back has become, so feel free to video yourself or take a selfie to check (or look into a mirror). NOTE: Who would have guessed I would advise you to take a video of yourself twerking to help your low back feel better??? Not me!!
- Seated Side Stretch: Stretching sideways can bring a lot of space to the spine. Sit comfortably (if cross-legged is not for you today, find another way!). Reach your right hand to the ground, post off of it (press it steadily into the ground and lift away from it) to get your spine feeling super long. Take deep breaths as you reach your left arm up and over. Stay as long as it feels good!
- Spinx: This is a great place to just hang out and work on spinal extension. Lie facedown on elbows, with chest lifted and chin level. You can support yourself with a pillow or bolster under your chest. If you feel pinchy in the low back, fire your tailbone towards your heels to soften the curve in the low back – you’ll get deeper with practice!
- (Wide Kneed, Teepee Fingertips) Child’s Pose: Walk your knees wide to make space for your torso. Sit your hips back to your heels and stretch your arms forward. Make teepee fingertips to lift the arms and shoulderblades, tiptoe your fingers forward to deepen the stretch in your back.
And that’s it! Good luck and have fun with it.
Oh if you’re wondering, these stretches probably won’t make you sweat, I just called them sweaty because I took the photos after a huge workout, and I was all sweaty.