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Advice to improve your movement, fitness, and overall health from the world's #1 in orthopedics.

5 Super Stretches to Loosen Up Your Lower Back

If sitting too much has your back feeling tight, try these moves to get loose.

Advice to improve your movement, fitness, and overall health from the world's #1 in orthopedics.

Most of us sit too much. And unfortunately, a side effect of that sedentary lifestyle can be lower back tightness. To combat that, here are five stretch suggestions from Hector Lozada, PT, DPT, OCS, a physical therapist at HSS. Sprinkle these in throughout your day to keep your lower back loose or to stretch it out whenever you feel tense. Do each stretch gently, for as long as you feel comfortable, breathing in and out to get further into the moves. 

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Trunk Rotation (Yoga Spine Twist)

If you’re really tight, start this one on a chair:

  1. Sit in a chair with your arms at your sides, feet planted on the floor.
  2. Rotate your upper body gently to the right. Your gaze should be looking over your right shoulder. 
  3. Take your right hand and place it on the back of the chair and place your left arm on your right thigh until you feel a gentle stretch.
  4. Make sure your sitz bones remain on the chair.
  5. Come back to center, then repeat on the other side.

As your back gets more flexible, you can progress to the floor:

  1. Lie on your back and bend your knees in toward your chest.
  2. Let your knees fall to the right on the floor so they’re at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Bring your arms to the left so the back of your left arm is resting on the floor and your right arm is resting on top of the left. 
  4. Turn your head to the left and gaze toward your left hand. 
  5. Breathe deeply and stay here as long as you’re comfortable.
  6. Repeat on the other side. 

Child’s Pose (Prayer Stretch)

  1. Kneel down with the top of your feet resting on the floor, big toes touching each other and knees about hip-width apart.
  2. Lower your hips so that you’re sitting on your heels.
  3. Hinge at the hips as your torso lowers until it’s resting between your thighs.
  4. Walk your hands out in front of you as far as you can get, palms down and forehead on the floor.
  5. Relax into the stretch as you reach farther forward and imagine your shoulder blades sinking toward the ground.
  6. Breathe deeply in and out for as long as you’re comfortable.
  7. When you’re ready to come out, press through your tailbone to rise.

Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. Begin by kneeling on the floor. 
  2. Bring your right leg in front of you so that your right thigh is parallel to the floor, with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle and your foot flat on the floor.
  3. Leave your left knee on the floor, making sure that your shin is pointing straight back (not toward the left or right).
  4. Put your hands on your hips and tuck your hips slightly under to make sure your spine is in a neutral position.
  5. With your back straight, shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch through the front of the left thigh and groin. Do not lose your neutral spine as you shift your weight. 
  6. For an even deeper stretch, reach your left arm up overhead and slightly toward the right. 

Cat Cow 

  1. Begin on all fours with your knees, feet, hips and wrists aligned. 
  2. Keep your back straight like a tabletop and your spine in a neutral position. 
  3. Inhale and slowly round your spine toward the ceiling – like a cat does when he’s mad – as you tuck your tailbone and drop your head comfortably toward the floor. 
  4. Exhale and lift your tailbone to the ceiling while your chest moves forward and your belly sinks towards the floor. 
  5. Be careful not to strain your neck. 
  6. Continue back and forth between the positions.

Supine Hamstring Stretch with Towel

Because the hamstring muscles run down the back of the thigh from the hip to the back of the knee, releasing them can help loosen the lower back. 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted flat on the floor.
  2. Bring your right knee toward your chest. 
  3. Loop a rolled-up towel onto the ball of the right foot and hold the towel on each end.
  4. Inhale and slowly raise your right foot toward the ceiling, keeping the towel in your hands and the left foot on the floor. Stop when you feel a stretch in the hamstring. 
  5. Exhale as you feel the hamstring relax and stretch further. Continue to inhale and exhale as you push your foot gently further toward the ceiling. 
  6. Stay there for 5 to 10 deep breaths. 
  7. Return to the starting position and repeat on the left side.

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