With a lot of people sitting all day long in the office, except for brief restroom or lunch breaks, it’s no surprise that around 31 million Americans experience some form of back pain. While a visit to the doctor is always recommended, if your pain is not severe then there are some simple exercises that you can do at home.
Most of these stretches are inspired from yoga, so that means they’re gentle and very easy to do. Do them on a yoga mat or other cushioned surface (not too soft, though) for greater comfort while doing the exercises.
As always, consult with your doctor if you have any doubts about your ability to perform any exercise.
1 – Reclining pigeon pose
Starting position: lying flat on your back with knees bent, feet also flat on the floor about hip-width apart, and arms at your sides.
Lift right ankle and cross it over until it rests on your left thigh (like doing a figure four).
Grab your left leg under the knee with both hands and try to clasp them together at the back of the thigh.
Gently pull towards your body so that your left foot rises from the floor until you feel the stretch.
Hold for 30-60 seconds while deeply breathing then return to the starting position.
Repeat on the other side.
Effect: The exercise stretches your hamstrings and quadriceps to increase hip mobility. It also helps relieve sciatic nerve pain.
2 – The cat-camel stretch
Starting position: On all fours, hands under your shoulders with arms and knees hip-width apart.
Tighten your abs then round your spine toward the ceiling (like a camel hump) while also lowering your head.
Stay in the position for 10 seconds then slowly relax your back.
Then curve your stomach toward the floor and stick your tailbone out so that the spine also curves while lifting your head simultaneously.
Stay in the position for 10 seconds then return to the starting position.
Repeat 3 times.
Effect: The exercise stretches and strengthens the stabilizer muscles around the spine and increases flexibility without straining your neck.
3 – The dead bug exercise
Starting position: Flat on your back and arms raised towards the ceiling.
Tighten your abs and press lower back toward the floor.
Bend legs at a 90° angle
Take a deep breath
While keeping core engaged, exhale while lowering your left arm and right leg to the floor simultaneously. Do it slowly to engage the muscles.
Return arm and leg upward.
Repeat 5-10x on each side.
Effect: This exercise strengthens the abs and core muscles without straining the lower back. This also eliminates pain by keeping the spine in a neutral position.
4 – Child’s pose
Starting position: Sit on your heels and place your hands at your thighs.
Exhale while leaning forward and extending arms in front of you.
If you’re flexible enough, continue until your forehead is touching the floor.
Hold for around 60 seconds.
Return to the starting position.
Effect: The exercise stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. By gently reducing the tension at the lower back, it also helps relieve neck and back pain.
5 – Side Plank
Starting position: Lie on your left side with knees straight.
Place your left elbow in line under your shoulder and lift yourself up on your left forearm.
Raise your right arm above the head and make sure your body forms a diagonal line. Keep the spine aligned and breath deeply.
Hold for 60 seconds and return to the starting position.
Do the same for the right side.
Effect: This exercise strengthens the lateral muscles of your spine and stabilizes them.
6 – The prone cobra
Starting position: Lie on your stomach face down, legs straight, and arms placed at your sides with palms turned up facing the ceiling.
Contract your lower back muscles while lifting your head, chest, arms, and legs off the floor.
Simultaneously rotate your palms until your thumbs point toward the ceiling.
Hold for 5-10 seconds
Return to the starting position.
Effect: The exercise strengthens your core and strengthens your upper back muscles as well. This will help you maintain good posture.
7 – The sitting piriformis stretch
Starting position: Sit on a chair with back straight with feet flat on the floor shoulder-width apart and hands placed on your hips.
Place your left ankle on top of your right thigh near the knee (figure four position).
Place your right hand on your left heel and left hand on your left thigh near the knee. Slightly press your left leg toward the floor.
Lean your chest toward your left knee to increase the pressure.
Hold for 30-60 seconds then return to the starting position.
Repeat for the opposite side.
Effect: This stretch can ease back, knee, and ankle pain by relaxing the tight piriformis muscle.
8 – The fish pose
Starting position: Lie on your back with knees bent and soles of the feet flat on the floor.
Lift pelvis slightly off the floor and slide your hands beneath the buttocks, palms facing down. Sit your buttocks on the back of your hands and make sure your forearms and elbows are close to the sides of your torso.
Breath in and lift your upper torso and head off the floor. Then gently relax your head towards the floor.
Straighten your legs if you can but otherwise, you may keep them bent.
Hold for 15-30 seconds while breathing slowly.
Exhale and return to the starting position.
Effect: The exercise produces a deep stretch for the shoulders, chest, and the front body, as well as the muscles of the back and neck. Spinal tension is also relieved, improves posture and encourages better breathing.