If you wake up with lower back stiffness you may benefit from this simple routine of lower back stretches.
These lower back stretches and mobility exercises are perfect for when you first wake up and can be completed lying in bed.
This gentle 5 minute routine safely mobilizes the joints and tissues in your lower back. These exercises are pelvic floor friendly and will help you avoid overloading your pelvic floor, especially if you suffer from pelvic floor problems such as pelvic prolapse.
Suitability – General
Please scroll below for more information about these lower back stretches.
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What Causes Lower Back Stiffness?
Lower back stiffness is often accompanied by pain. Causes include:
- Tight tissues (muscles and/or ligaments)
- Wear and tear in the joints of the lower back (osteoarthritis)
- Lack of movement
- Poor posture
- Lower back disc problems
When you sleep your joints and muscles don’t move the way they normally do when you’re active throughout the day. Lack of movement when you sleep can cause the joints and tissues in your lower back to become tight, less mobile and feeling stiff and uncomfortable when you first wake up. Appropriate movement can help you ease this stiffness and discomfort.
Lower Back Stretches and Lower Back Pain
Decreased lower back flexibility is associated with lower back pain 1.
It’s a great idea to do regular exercises to improve your lower back flexibility, especially if you’re prone to lower back stiffness and pain. Research has found that some exercise programs that include lower back stretches along with core stabilization exercises reduce lower back pain and improve spinal flexibility 2.
Lower Back Stretches for Morning Stiffness
The following stretches are pelvic floor friendly. This means they are appropriate for most men and women with pelvic floor problems including pelvic prolapse, incontinence or after recovery from pelvic surgery including hysterectomy.
Lie flat on your back with both knees bent and a pillow supporting your head and neck (if desired) for all of the following exercises.
Your lower back should be in neutral starting position. This means your lower back curve should be positioned comfortably midway between extended (arched back) and flexed (bent forwards) positions.
1. Lumbar Rotations
Lumbar rotations gently open the joints in your lower back and stretch the muscles of the lower back, hips and buttocks.
- Keep at least one foot in contact with the mattress as you gently lower both knees to one side of your body (start with a small range of movement)
- Return to your starting position and repeat to the other side
- Try to keep your upper back and shoulders in contact with the mattress to increase the amount of rotation that occurs through your lower back
- Repeat lumbar rotations 2-3 times each side
2. Posterior Pelvic Tilt
Posterior pelvic tilt exercise gently stretches the tissues and opens the joints in your lower back. This is usually a very helpful exercise if you have a large inwards curve in your lower back (sway back).
- Gently flatten your lower back curve into the mattress by tilting your pelvic backwards. This involves gently pressing the arch of your lower back into the mattress.
- Return to your neutral back starting position
- Repeat this tilting action 3-4 times
3. Knee to Chest
Knee to chest exercise stretches the tissues of your lower back, buttocks and hips while gently opening the joints of your lower back.
- Raise one leg off the mattress to bring that thigh towards your chest and then grasp the lower leg to draw the thigh closer to your chest if you desire
- Repeat this exercise for each leg holding each stretch for 10-15 seconds
4. Hamstring Stretch
The hamstring stretch lengthens the hamstring muscles that extend from lower lower buttock to the back of your knee. Tight hamstrings can contribute to lower back stiffness and lower back pain so it can be beneficial to stretch them regularly.
- Raise one leg off the mattress by holding the back of your thigh with both hands. Maintain a slight bend in your raised leg and keep your toes directed towards the ceiling (to protect your lower back).
- If you’re just starting out, you may like to keep your other leg bent with your foot flat on the mattress at first
- Repeat this stretch on each leg
- Maintain your hamstring stretches for 10-15 seconds
5. Bed Bridge
The bridge exercise activates the buttock and lower back muscles. Extending your lower back as you raise your buttocks from the mattress also mobilizes the joints in your lower back.
- Start with your arms resting by your sides and press down through your heels to raise your buttocks off the mattress
- Maintain your normal back curve throughout this exercise
- Lower your body back to the bed
- Repeat this exercise 4-5 times in a row
6. Knees to Chest
You may choose to complete your lower back stretching routine by raising both knees towards your chest and grasping your lower legs if this feels comfortable for your lower back.
Get out of Bed Safely
The correct action for getting out of bed involves:
- Rolling onto your side closest to the edge of the bed
- Pushing your body up sideways using your arms as you lower both legs over the side of the bed
- Sitting briefly with your legs over the side of the bed before standing up tall
How Often to do Lower Back Stretches?
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends flexibility exercises should be incorporated into an overall fitness plan 3.
Stretching exercises should be performed a minimum of 2-3 days of the week. Ideally static stretches (prolonged muscle stretches) should each be maintained for 10-30 seconds 3.
1. Rainville, J et al (2004) Exercise as a treatment for chronic low back pain. The Spine Journal, 4(1), 106–115.
2. Valerie Gladwell et al (2006) Does a Program of Pilates Improve Chronic Non-Specific Low Back Pain? Journal of Sport Rehabilitation Volume 15: Issue 4 Pages: 338–350.
3. ACSM (1998) American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. The recommended quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and flexibility in healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998; 30: 975–991.