From an appreciation for things that bounce to a love of explosions — the bigger the better — guys have plenty in common. But millions of Canadian men share something else that’s a lot less fun: lower back pain. Four out of five of us suffer from it at some point in our lives, with severe back pain flaring up most often in guys between the ages of 30 and 50.
That’s why we’ve got your back — pun intended — with five simple stretches that ease the muscle and ligament stress that often causes back pain. You can do these lower back pain stretches every day before bed or as a part of your morning routine. Let’s break each stretch down step-by-step:
Cat-cow stretch (yes, the cat-cow stretch)
Step 1: Get down on your hands and knees with your knees hip-width apart.
Step 2: Arch your back by pulling your belly button up toward your spine, letting your head drop forward while gently exhaling. This is the “cat” part of the stretch. If you’d rather be a tiger, go for it!
Step 3: Hold for five seconds, feeling a gentle stretch in your lower back. Return to the starting position.
Step 4: Raise your head up and curve your back down toward the floor while gently inhaling. This is the cow portion of the stretch (it can also be called the raging bull portion). Hold for five seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Step 1: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, grass, beach, whatever. So far, so good!
Step 2: Grab your right lower leg with both hands and clasp your wrists just under the knee.
Step 3: Keeping your left foot flat, gently pull your right knee up to your chest until you feel a slight stretch in your lower back. That stretch means it’s working!
Step 4: Hold your right knee against your chest for around 30 seconds, making sure to keep your legs, hips, and lower back relaxed.
Step 5: Release your right knee and return to the starting position. Repeat steps 2-4 with your left leg and repeat three times for each leg. Easy does it!
Step 1: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat, and arms by your sides. Your spine’s natural curve will lift your lower back slightly off the floor.
Step 2: Gently arch your lower back and push your stomach out. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
Step 3: Push your pelvis slightly up toward the ceiling without leaving the floor. At the same time, tighten your abdomen and butt. This should press your lower back into the floor. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.
Step 1: Yelling “Kowabunga!” (if you feel like it), roll up a towel or blanket lengthwise and place it horizontally in front of you.
Step 2: Lie front side down over the towel or blanket so your hips are pressing into it. Relax your body, turning your head to either side. Stay in this position for about a minute and repeat twice, resting for a minute between sets.
Step 1: Again, lying on your back, bring your knees up toward your chest like you’re sitting in a chair.
Step 2: Reach your arms out to the sides with your palms facing the ground.
Step 3: Keeping your knees together and hands in place, gently roll both bent knees over to your right side and hold for around 15 seconds.
Step 4: Return to the starting position and repeat Step 3 on your left side. Then repeat five times on each side. Your back will thank you!
Can a daily stretching routine help lower back pain? You bet it can! Do just one of these simple moves for a few minutes every day and back pain will melt away like the bad guys’ faces in Raiders of the Lost Ark. You’ll be kicking butt like Indiana Jones in no time!
Have you found something else that helps with back pain? Share the scoop with your buds in the comments below!
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Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and father of two. His award-winning stories have appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post newspapers, in magazines like Explore, Reader’s Digest, International Traveller and Canadian Family, and on websites including MSN, MSN Canada, and DontChangeMuch.ca. Visit Adam’s website for more details on his award winning work.