Back Stretches that Ease Stiffness and Increase Flexibility

Back stretches routine to help you feel great!

This 5 minute back stretching video is ideal for women seeking simple daily of back stretches. These back stretches are ideal for women seeking gentle exercises to ease lower and middle back stiffness and improve spinal flexibility.

Physiotherapist Michelle Kenway demonstrates six effective back stretches for the lower and middle back.

Scroll below video for how to keep these back stretches safe and effective.

Please note: These back stretches are not designed to treat specific lower back conditions – see your health practitioner for exercise advice if you suffer from a back condition. These exercises should not cause any physical discomfort and should be ceased immediately if any discomfort occurs.

For more Physiotherapist back exercises refer to our lower back strengthening online exercise video.

Back Stretches

Knee to Chest

Knee to chest stretch improves flexibility of the joints and muscles of the hips and lower back.

  • Start lying on your back on a floor mat or a firm mattress. Use a pillow or cushion under your neck to support your head as required for any of the following lying down exercises.
  • Gently raise your left leg holding the front of your left shin to bring your left thigh towards your chest.
  • If your left knee is prone to soreness, hold around the back of your left thigh instead of the front of your shin.
  • Keep your right leg straight along the ground – or alternatively keep your right leg bent with your right foot in contact with the ground if you are unable to fully extend your right leg.
  • Repeat this back stretch by alternating legs and bringing your right knee towards your chest.
  • Maintain your knee to chest stretch for 20-30 seconds at a time and repeat 2-3 times each leg.

Lumbar Rotations

Lumbar rotations are back exercises that promote movement and relieve stiffness in the joints and muscles of the lower back.

  • Lying on your back bend one leg at a time so that both knees are bent and your feet are flat on the ground. Always keep your feet flat on the ground to keep this exercise safe for your lower back. Your arms should rest flat on the ground, palms facing downwards and away from the sides of your trunk.
  • Breathe in and then breathe out as you roll your knees together towards the ground on one side of your body.
  • Take your legs down towards the ground within your range of comfortable movement before rolling your knees to the other side of your body.
  • Keep both of your shoulders on the ground throughout this exercise to promote movement in your lower back.
  • Keep your breathing relaxed throughout lumbar rotation back stretches.
  • Repeat up to 10 lumbar rotations in a row.

Pelvic Tilts

Pelvic tilts promote gentle movement in the lower back and pelvis. Pelvic tilts are often very comfortable and relieving for women with a large lumbar lordosis (inward curve in the lower back also known as ‘Sway Back’).

  • Lying flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, gently tilt your pelvis backwards to flatten out the curve in your lower back
  • Tilt your pelvis forwards to your starting position and avoid excessive arching of the lower back
  • Pelvic tilts are a smooth mobility exercise involving repeated backwards and forwards tilting of the pelvis.
  • Repeat up to 10 pelvic tilts in a row.

Kneeling Back Stretch

Kneeling back position stretches the muscles in the lower back and buttocks. This position also stretches the large muscles of the middle back (Latissimus Dorsi) when the arms are extended in front of the body. If your shoulders are sore modify this exercise by keeping your arms beside your body.

  • Start kneeling with your knees under your hips and hands beneath your shoulders. Use a cushion under your knees if you have problems with your knees caused by kneeling.
  • Reach your arms out along the ground in front of your body and move your buttocks backwards towards your heels.
  • Keep your forehead down to avoid straining your neck
  • Breathe in deeply to increase the intensity of stretch in your lower and middle back.
  • Kneeling back stretch can be maintained for 20-30 seconds and repeated 2-3 times.

Back Extensions

Back extensions promote normal extension movement in the lower back. Avoid hyper extending your back by lifting your chest and shoulders too far from the ground, particularly if you have degenerative problems in your lower back.

  • Start lying prone with your hand beneath your shoulders. If your wrists are sore with weight bearing, rest your body weight through your forearms instead.
  • Raise your chest and shoulders backwards by pushing back through your hands (or forearms) as you exhale.
  • Inhale and return your body back to lying prone.
  • Keep your chin tucked and avoid hyper extending your neck during this exercise to minimise the risk of neck strain.
  • Repeat up to 10 back extensions in a row.

Cat Curl

Cat curl is a gentle stretch for the joints and muscles of the middle and lower back.

  • Start kneeling with your knees under your hips and your hands beneath your shoulders. Use a pillow or cushion under your knees if you are prone to knee pain associated with kneeling.
  • Breathe in and stretch your middle back by arching backwards towards ceiling as if being drawn up by a string.
  • Breathe out and return your back to neutral (normal) position. Avoid hyper extending or arching your back too far downward to avoid strain on your lower back.
  • Repeat 4-5 cat curl stretches in a row.

Back stretches can help to alleviate back stiffness and maintain back flexibility and range of movement. A daily routine of 15 minutes of flexibility exercises is desirable for healthy adults. If your back is healthy, back stretches including those exercises demonstrated in this video can help increase flexibility and relieve back stiffness.

prolapse exercisesABOUT THE PRESENTER, Michelle Kenway

Michelle Kenway is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and author of Prolapse Exercises Inside Out. Prolapse Exercises is a complete exercise guide for women seeking to exercise safely and protect their pelvic floor.


  1. Im almost 70 days post prolapse surgery. Thank you for your guidance it is most helpful. Im feeling real good and Kegels 3Xs a day, I still use the CD. Walking 30 min. most mornings. IM loosing weight and eating healthy. Your web sight has given me hope, encouragement, empowerment. Thank you and your team. Warmest regards. R.Dohm

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Robbin. It sounds as though you’re really looking after your body well – keep up your great work! All the best to you

  2. Hi Michelle, are these back stretches safe to do with a uterine prolapse?

    • Michelle Kenway says

      Hi Laura

      The majority of these stretches are fine for most women with uterine prolapse providing that they don’t cause prolapse symptoms – the one stretch here to avoid or modify is the kneeling back stretch. Modify the kneeling back stretch by limiting how far the bottom slides back to the heels by keeping the butt lifted in the air during this particular stretch. Keep the pelvic tilt exercise gentle.

      Let me know if you need more information here. Otherwise enjoy these lower back stretches.


  3. Michelle says

    I have so many questions-
    I have recently had a hysterectomy, cystocele and rectocele repair. My dr told me I should not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds for three months. I love to exercise intensely but I also am very concerned that I do not put pressure on my pelvic floor.

    When is it safe to start pelvic floor exercises?

    Once I get the go ahead from my dr, would you recommend swimming laps as a safe alternative to aerobic exercises and weight exercises?
    Do u recommend hiking?
    Thank you and I look forward to your reply!
    PS-I am looking forward to reading your book!

    • Michelle Kenway says

      Hi Michelle

      Yes you are correct to avoid placing pressure on your pelvic floor, especially in view of the scope of your surgery, and I am guessing your youth.

      Pelvic floor exercises usually start 6-8 weeks post op, very gradually and progressing over time. This can vary from one woman to the next. This video on pelvic floor exercises after pelvic floor surgery should give you more information. Yes swimming is a great low impact form of exercise for women, I also really like stationary cycling and hiking is also low impact more appropriate for when you are well and truly recovered (avoid carrying heavy pack and long/ steep distances).

      Hope you enjoy your reading Michelle, all the best for your recovery

  4. Gal Baras says

    I think I’m going to try this list from top to bottom. Thanks, Michelle!

    • Michelle Kenway says

      Hi Gal
      Hope the exercises help you ease your stiff back!

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