Low Back Pain and Stretching! | The FPB

Martin is a physiotherapist at Physio-Logic. His hobbies include hikes, guitar playing and travelling. Covid-19 has limited his travel plans, and therefore finding reasons to educate others with lower back pain stretches.

 

Stretching and Lower Back Pain – Martin Serrano

“My muscles feel tight, so I need to stretch to make them longer” – 1 + 1 = 2 right? Not quite.

In today’s digital climate, sitting for hours on end while working from a computer screen has become a social norm. This is especially true amidst a pandemic where more and more people are working from home with less-than optimal workspaces. And with this social norm comes an ever-growing problem – lower back pain.

The World Health Organization states that 60-70% of people living in industrialised countries have experienced non-specific lower back pain at some point in their life.[1] 
(Non-specific lower back pain refers to that all too common pain in the lower back without a clear cause like injury or disease).

One of the first-line treatments for lower back pain is physiotherapy – very surprising considering the name of this blog (right?), and within physiotherapy treatment is the ubiquitous exercise of stretching. But before we start contorting our bodies to experience that almost masochistic pain-relieving pain, let’s briefly talk about what stretching actually does.    

“My muscles feel tight, so I need to stretch to make them longer” – 1 + 1 = 2 right? Not quite.

While consistent stretching can lengthen a muscle over time, it’s uncommon for actual muscle length to be the issue – especially for lower back pain as you can never truly stretch the surrounding muscles to the point where they start physically lengthening – and you don’t need to.

That feeling of tension or tightness in our muscles is often exactly that – a feeling. And that feeling comes from our uptight nervous system telling us “don’t move that far it’ll hurt…and we don’t like hurting”. Essentially what stretching does is tell our nervous system to calm down and that it’s actually safe to go into certain positions – this decreases that stiffness that comes with lower back pain and also has a pain-relieving effect as the nervous system is in charge of the pain we feel. 

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the reason you’ve clicked on this post – THE STRETCHES

1. Child’s Pose

This is a great stretch I often prescribe to my clients because it stretches almost everything – love the efficiency! Just remember to relax your tummy and hips and to breathe deeply.

2. Glute Stretch

Often times we feel all that tension and pain in the lower back but what’s actually stopping you from moving is your hips. So cross that leg and lean forward!

3. Quadratus Lumborum Stretch


A stretch that will really show you how inflexible you are, this is a great stretch to target the sides and really target that lower back.

4. Hip Flexor Stretch


Stress can cause our hip flexors to really tighten up – and the job of these muscles are to basically fold us in half from the hip. To prevent that from happening, the lower back and glute muscles also tighten and fight to keep us upright. So why not end the fighting and take the heat off of our back muscles by stretching the muscles at the front of the hip. Just make sure to keep your body upright!

There are a multitude of reasons for lower back pain, be it stress, posture, not enough exercise, or muscular weakness. With that said, just remember that stretching is only part and parcel of a physiotherapy treatment and should not be the ONLY treatment.

As lower back pain is multi-faceted a physiotherapist will often work to assess and improve movement, posture, strength, and other areas in order to identify the root cause of your problem, so it goes away and doesn’t happen again!

References:

  1.  https://www.who.int/medicines/areas/priority_medicines/Ch6_24LBP.pdf