If there’s anything that screams, “Take a break!” it’s that achy, stiffness in your lower back. Whether from being too sedentary, sleeping wrong, former injuries, repressed emotions, or hormonal shifts, no one escapes being caught walking around slightly hunched over with one hand on their lower back. It’s the tell-tale sign that we need to take it easy from whatever caused the pain to begin with – stress, anyone??
Our back and spine are major anchors of our body - the core of so much tension, stress, and worry. When our back pain flares up, our brain shoots pain chemicals to the site, and although it’s tempting to lay down, it may be more helpful to stretch it out. This allows the pain chemicals to dissipate, and the muscles in the area to relax. This may be easier said than done if you, like so many of us, don’t have access to a gym with stretching space, or perhaps are on the go, in an office, or otherwise unable to drop what we’re doing to get on a yoga mat.
Thankfully, there are great back stretches that can be done in simple standing or seated positions, some of which are so discrete, your coworkers may not even notice!
1. Seated knee lifts
Seated in a chair, keeping your back straight and your tummy pulled in (imagine bringing your navel to your spine), keep your knees bent as you lift one leg up to waist height and lower it back down. Do the same with the other leg. That’s one rep – repeat 10x.
2. Seated forward bend
While sitting in a chair with your feet on the ground, keep your back straight and then bend forward to the floor as far as you’re able. Let your arms dangle as needed. Hold there for 30 seconds and repeat 3x.
3. Seated leg rests
Sit up straight with your feet on the ground, lift one foot and place it on the opposite knee, so that it’s resting on that knee. From there, lean forward gently – you should begin to feel a stretch in your groin. Keeping your back straight, hold this pose for as long as you’re comfortable. Repeat with the opposite foot resting on the opposite leg.
4. Standing hamstring stretch
Stand with your legs together and engage your lower abdomen (think: bringing your navel towards your spine). Keep your hands on your waist. Take a deep breath and lengthen your spine, and on the exhale, fold forward at the hips and let your torso fall.
You can deepen this stretch by crossing one foot over the other, and bending forward over the front leg, then coming up, switching legs, and repeating. Make sure to take deep breaths in and out with each transition.
5. Door frame reach
Stand near an open door so you can use a door frame. Reach your left hand into the left side of the door frame at arm’s height (you shouldn’t have to reach up or down). Grab on to the left side of the door frame. With your hand anchoring you in place, move the rest of your body away/back until you feel a stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with your right hand on the right side of the door frame.