Stretches and exercises to address back pain

September 15, 2021 | by Rachel Schneider
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

People can experience back pain for a variety of reasons. Pain in any part of the back could be attributed to poor posture, core weakness, muscle fatigue, or sitting and standing for extended periods of time.

If your back pain is chronic, you may want to see your doctor or physical therapist for further treatment. You may also consider trying some stretches and exercises to manage back pain. As always, ask your doctor before trying any new exercise program.

Keep these tips in mind for stretching to relieve back pain:

  • Move into a stretch slowly and avoid bouncing in the stretch.
  • Hold stretches for at least 15-20 seconds to allow for lengthening of the muscles.
  • Repeat the stretch 2-5 times once or twice a day.

Stretches for upper/mid back pain (Learn more)

  • Levator Scapulae Stretch: Stand/sit tall. Face head forward then look down to the left. Left arm will hold and gently pull down on the right side of the head. Repeat on right side.


  • Doorway Pec Stretch: Stand in the middle of a doorway. Place hands at shoulder height on the doorframe. Take a half step through the door to feel the stretch. If the stretch is too intense, move hands down to hip height.


  • Thoracic Spine Extension: Lay on the ground on a foam roller or sit in a chair. For this stretch the foam roller or back of the chair should be under the lowest point of your shoulder blade. Then, lean back and lift your hands over your head for a more intense stretch.

Stretches for lower back pain (Learn more)

  • Knee-to-Chest: Lay on your back on the ground. Bend your left leg and bring it to your chest. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Repeat with right leg.


  • Lower Trunk Rotations: Lie on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your shoulders on the floor at all times. Gently rock both knees over to the left hold for 10 seconds and then rock both knees to the right and hold for 10 seconds.


  • Cat-Cow Stretch: Get on hands and knees with knees hip-width apart. Knees under hips and palms under your shoulders. Tuck your pelvis and round out your mid back, drawing your belly button to your spine, hold for 3-5 seconds. Return to neutral and then turn your face to the sky allowing your back to sink to the floor and hold for 3-5 seconds.

Exercises for back pain (Learn more)

  • Bridges: Lay on your back on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat. Feet should be hip-width apart. Keeping shoulders flat on the ground, squeeze your buttocks and lift your hips up off the ground until they are even with your knees and hold for 3-5 seconds. If that is too painful, lower how high you raise your hips.


  • Marches: Lay on your back on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat. Feet should be hip-width apart. Lift left leg up so your foot comes a couple inches off the floor and lower back down. Repeat on right side. Use lower abdominal muscles when lifting leg.


  • Shoulder Blade Squeezes: Stand up tall and maintain good posture. Pull your shoulder blades back and together. Hold for 5 seconds and relax.

Learn more about stretches and exercises for back pain.

Need help with stretches and exercises? A fitness specialist can help you develop a fitness program that works for you. Drive your health forward at Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness.

Seeking treatment for back pain? The Edward-Elmhurst Health Orthopedic Center team of specially-trained nurses and highly-trained independent surgeons can provide the back pain treatment you need so you can reclaim your life. Learn more

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