7 Best back exercises and stretches for relief of muscle spasms and pain

Lower back stretches and exercises for muscle soreness and lower back spasms

Low back pain can make even small daily activities like getting dressed, bathing or going to the bathroom feel like they are impossible to do. Prompt and thorough treatment of even small back with back exercises pain can prevent the underlying problem from worsening.  Doctors, therapists and sport rehab specialists will always put a lot of emphasis on the need to exercise tight and sore lower back muscles. But often not enough emphasis is placed on preparation; the need to first get the muscles and other soft tissues ready to do back stretches for lower back problems. Taking enough time to properly warm up and stretch the back muscles can make the difference between lower back exercises helping or making the problem worse.

Knowing and using a few simple but extremely effective low back stretches can do wonders for muscle stiffness and pain and prepare you for a helpful series of low back exercise.  If you have a history of a touchy low back that flares up easily, committing to a back stretching routine can mean the difference between having low back pain or not.

The following series of warm-ups and stretches are for sore and tight back muscles only, not for tears or back problems that have not been diagnosed.  A serious back problem can be easily aggravated by making excessive demands on abnormal tissue. Always check with your doctor or chiropractor if you are not sure about a current back problem before doing these back stretches.

Lower back stretches and exercises are all about increasing movement

The main purpose of doing stretches for the lower back is to move it gently through all ranges of motion, to eventually have greater movement during your daily activities.  While doing these back exercises and back stretches you must always avoid anything that causes discomfort and back tension.  Pain is a signal of a problem, and you must avoid pain while doing these lower back stretches because it means you are hurting yourself in some way.

Do not believe the idea of “no pain, no gain.”  That is only for the movies.  In real life people injure themselves by doing lower back exercises too aggressively or in the wrong way.  Listen to the pain signal and stop if you feel any back spasms or muscle soreness or pain develop while doing these back stretches.

Get ready to stretch the lower back

Warm up your sore back muscles and increase blood flow to the low back before you attempt any kind of stretch or exercise. These back exercises bring greater blood flow to area of soreness and prepare for greater activity, reducing the chance of aggravating back pain and muscle spasms.

  • Soak in a tub of hot water.  Fill the tub up high with hot water so you will tend to float and reduce the force of gravity on your spine and muscles.  Add Epsom salts to help relax the muscles.  Try not to sit up too high in the tub since this can stress the low back discs; slide down low so the back is allowed to flatten a bit, reducing disc and muscle stress.
  • Local heat helps reduce muscle spasms.  Wring out a large bath towel that you have soaked in very hot water.  Place the damp hot towel on the low back where the pain is located.  As an alternate method, place a damp towel of any size in the microwave oven long enough to heat the towel, being careful not to overheat  the towel since the middle us usually the most heated  area.   Place the warm cloth on your back over the area of pain, being careful to not burn yourself, for as long as the towel is warm, usually 10 minutes or so.
  • Hip slides.  A gentle way to start doing back exercises.  Lie on your back.  Move one hip and then the other toward the shoulders; raise the right hip to the right shoulder, then the left hip toward the left shoulder.  Raise one hip and then the other up off the floor so the back twists a little; raise the right hip off the floor, then raise the left hip off the floor.
  • Gentle low back traction.  Lie on your back. Put your hands on your hips and straighten the elbows until you feel a slight comfortable traction in low back.  Next, bend both knees and put your feet on the floor.  Place the palms of your hands on each thigh close to where the thighs connect to the pelvis.  Try to push your butt away from your head by slowly straightening your elbows, until you feel a slight comfortable traction in low back.
  • Extend the low back.  A slightly more aggressive back exercise. Stand straight with both feet about shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips.  Slowly and carefully bend your knees slightly as you use the weight of your upper body to bend you backward so you can look at the ceiling.  You might want to hold onto a chair for balance and stability if you feel disoriented doing this one.
  • Windmill.   A general back exercise.  Make big circles with your arms, rotating your arms in clockwise and counterclockwise circles.

After spending just a little time warming up the low back with these back exercises, you are ready to reduce muscle spasms and muscle soreness with any of the following low back stretches that feel comforting when they are done in a slow and deliberate way.

7 Excellent stretches for lower back tension and pain

Pelvic tilt exercise is one of several great low back stretches

Pelvic tilt stretch

  • Perhaps the most fundamental and most important of all back exercises and stretches.
  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on floor.
  • Keep hands on the tummy so you can feel movement of abdominal muscles and the low back as you correctly perform the pelvic tilt.
  • Reverse the curve of your low back.  Gently press the lower back against the floor by tightening the abdominal muscles and tilting or rolling the pelvis backward.
  • Hold for 3 seconds, then relax all muscle contraction and allow return of curve in low back.
  • Holding the pelvic tilt is more difficult than holding other poses.  The muscles weaken quickly.  Work to hold this pelvic tilt stretch longer each time you do it.  Eventually try to work up to a 20 second hold.
  • Remember to stop if the back pain becomes acute or increases suddenly.
  • Use the pelvic tilt pose while doing other stretches and exercises to protect your back.

Knee to chest low back stretch will reduce low back muscle spasm and low back pain

Knees- to-chest back stretch

  • Keep the back and hips muscles relaxed while doing this low back stretch, so most of the work is done with the hands and arms.  Do not cause pain during this lower back stretch, only a feeling of gentle traction.
  • Lie on your back.  Grab your knees.  As you pull them up toward your chest monitor the feeling of stretching the low back.  Move slowly and breathe during this stretch.
  • Slowly push the lower back into the floor.
  • Do this eight to ten times, making sure when you press down your lower back that you keep it there for a count of 10.

Gently rotating lumbar spine is a good way to do stretches for lower back pain and muscle spasms

Side knee drop – low back stretch

  • Lie on your back and bring both knees up toward the chest.
  • Keep the shoulders flat on the floor as you allow the knees to drop to one side; only allow the knees to move as far as comfortable; do not allow pain to develop.
  • Keep the low back flat on the floor to avoid injury.
  • Hold position for 30 seconds.
  • Bring knees up to the midline and repeat on the other side.
  • Hold position for 30 seconds. Repeat until back feels more relaxed and looser.

Hamstring stretch is a good daily low back exercise

Hamstring stretch

  • Do not pull too hard or overstretch when stretching the hamstring muscles located at the back of the thigh.  It is possible to injure or tear a muscle that is overly spastic and tight.
  • Sit on the floor or bed. Extend one leg in front of you, as shown above.
  • Bend or tuck the other leg so the sole of your foot rests as close as possible against the opposite inside knee.
  • Slowly and gently lean forward. The primary work of stretching the hamstring muscles is performed by allowing the weight of the head and upper body to slump forward to stretch the back of the thighs and low back.  Do not force this movement.
  • Reach with both  hands toward your feet until a comfortable and gentle stretch is felt in the back of the thigh and buttock.
  • Hold for 15-20 seconds.
  • Repeat at least 6 reps, and work up to 12.


Lower back exercises should include a prone press to stretch the enire spine

Prone press up – on hands (or elbows) or

  • Lie face down on tummy
  • Raise only upper body, by pushing up on your hands like you are going to start a push up.  As far as possible and comfort allows, arch the low back with no pain or discomfort.  If this movement causes discomfort, try pushing up on your elbow as far as possible to arch the low back with no pain or discomfort.
  • Do not use buttock or back muscles; keep them relaxed and passive as all effort is with the arm and shoulder muscles.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  • Repeat as many times as is comfortable.
  • If it is too painful to lie down, or too painful to push up with the elbows, or you cannot lie down when your back bothers you away from home, slowly and gently do a few standing backward bends, as shown.

Lower back stretching with the prayer pose exercise for low back pain and tightness

Prayer pose back stretch

  • Assume the posture for the prayer pose stretch, above.
  • Hold this posture and relax, while stretching the fingertips forward and the buttocks backward until a comfortable and gentle stretching sensation is felt in the spine and low back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat as many times as is comfortable.

Low back exercise is one of classic stretches for low back problems

Cat/Horse back stretch

  • With knees and hands being at shoulder width distance, and back held flat, get on all fours.
  • Do not look up and do not look straight ahead of you; look down at the floor during his exercise so the neck is kept straight and relaxed.
  • First, lead with the pelvis so it rolls backward and up to allow the back to arch upward  like you are an angry cat.  Allow the spine to rise up toward the ceiling.  Tightly pull the abdominal muscles in toward the spine. Slowly and gently push the spine up so a comfortable low back stretch is felt, but no pain.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Second, lead with the pelvis so it rolls forward and down as you reverse the position to allow the back to sag like an old horse.  Allow the spine to drop down toward the floor.  Slowly and gently let gravity to lower the spine down so a comfortable low back stretch is felt, but no pain.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat as many times as is comfortable.


Two key ideas when doing back exercises and stretches for lower back pain:

  • Be slow, gradual and gentle.  Sneak up on the tight tissue with a very light and sustained back stretches.  Grunting, groaning and working like you are trying to bend steel will not be effective because you will only create resistance as the body tries to defend itself from aggressive stretching.
  • Be consistent each day, allowing enough time and opportunity for the tissue to respond to your best back exercises.