Lower Back Stretches: Relieve Pain After Sitting for Hours
We’ve pulled our favorite low back stretches for those who spend hours sitting still.
Let’s do this…
We have all heard the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking.”
While I understand that both have environmental contributors that have an insidious effect on your health, I shy away from making this comparison and claiming apples to apples.
Maybe it’s because lung cancer strikes a personal chord with me as I have lost a loved one to lung cancer. Or perhaps it’s because more than 16 million Americans suffer from some form of smoking related diseases, according to the CDC.
Lower back stretches are vital to relieve pain after being seated for hours.
Lower Back Pain from Sitting
There’s no doubt that a sedentary lifestyle combined with poor nutrition and sleep can be a key factor in the obesity epidemic. This contributes to heart disease, which again, according to the CDC, is the number one killer in America. Lower back pain from sitting is something that Tangelo patients commonly self-report.
So is sitting the new smoking?
Smoking alone can cause cancer. Sitting alone will not cause obesity. Therefore, I believe a more accurate comparison is that a sedentary lifestyle combined with poor diet and lack of sleep is indeed the new smoking. Albeit, more wordy and far less catchy!
Additionally, this blog is aimed to clarify the correlations between sitting and lower back pain.
It is important to note that it is not necessarily sitting, but rather the act of being stationary for an extended period of time that has the potential to cause pain.
Lower Back Pain When Sitting
When you are sitting, your posture is usually like this:
- Your pelvis is likely rotated back
- Your spine is rounded
- Your core is shut down
- Your head is forward
That is bad news bears I tell ya. This all amounts to lower back pain when sitting, and probably even beyond.
When you are standing, particularly at a standing desk, you will naturally try to conserve energy by locking out your skeleton and shifting your body to one side.
Is this worse or just as bad? The answer is “No.”
Standing is still better because it naturally incentivizes you to leave your workstation and move around — and research shows that movement is a good thing!
Also, if you’re looking for even more movements that will make your low back happy and healthy, check out our guide on our other top exercises to relieve lower back pain.
Low Back Pain
When it comes to low back pain and sitting, it is commonly misattributed by healthcare professionals that your tight hip flexors are solely to blame for causing your pain.
Their logic is that if you stretch them, you will be good to go!
Now, I can’t argue that the hip flexors might be a contributor for some low back suffers. But I will say, however, it is more likely tightness in your hamstring and weakness in your glutes and core that is a more prevalent cause of this prolific ailment.
Think about it; when you are sitting, your hip is flexed at ninety degrees (stretched glutes) and your knees are bent at around nightly degrees (shortened hamstrings).
Your pelvis is probably rotated back (stretched lower back extensors) and your hip flexors are shortened (but maybe not as much as you might think).
This can create a muscle imbalance that can rear its ugly head and cause pain performing simple tasks like picking socks off the floor. I personally have been there and I’m sure you have too.
The key is to maintain muscle balance and stretch regularly. Particularly lower back stretches. This can require as little as a few minutes a day and pay for itself in:
- Reduced risk of pain,
- Non-missed days of work,
- Activities you enjoy
- And an overall more positive outlook on life
Sound good? Thought so! Below you will find four lower back stretches to relieve your pain.
The best part is that they all require ZERO equipment and only a little motivation and floor space.
Lower Back Stretches
First, the Ergonomic Desk
Like millions of others, our normal workday has been turned completely upside down. Our co-workers are now our family members, and our conference room has more likely than not become any place in the house that’s quiet. Furthermore, that ergonomic workstation that we had perfectly set up at work is gone, and we now have to make do with what we have at home. And for many of us, that might be a kitchen or dining room table. I am going to show you tips and tricks to make your table your new high productivity workstation.
From eighteen month olds to eighty-one years young, feeling physically competent and emotionally confident to pick something off the ground is crucial for lower back health.
The hip hinge might feel foreign at first, but it does a great job of re-educating your body to put the load into your hamstrings and glutes and away from you lower back.
If you are unfamiliar with this movement, start by using a dowel, golf club or broom stick.
This will help you be more familiar with where you spine moves in space and where you might need to adjust.
Push those hips away from your heels and hinge back until you feel tension in the hamstrings. Done correctly, it is a major whammy on the hammy and a savior for your spine.
Just because the glute bridge isn’t new, it doesn’t mean is extremely effective. This is a staple exercise here at Tangelo Health, and for good reason — it works!
This exercise puts you into an environment where you are relatively safe and can see if you can engage your glutes without compensation, or engage them at all.
If you’re unable to feel your glutes robustly contract while the floor is providing all the stability for you, do you think you’re going to be engaging the right muscles and movement with control when your hips are in the air? Unlikely.
Take this exercise slow and make sure your core is set first. Then your glutes are fully contracted before you bridge into the air.
Want to make it even more effective? Keep your glutes engaged as you slowly lower back down to the ground. Burn baby, burn!
The Super Clams are super spicey on the glutes if done correctly.
The great thing about this exercise is that you are using your down glute to stabilize the pelvis and lower back to ensure good posture, while the top glute is contracting to externally rotate the hip.
This exercise packs a punch, let me tell ya.
Make sure to go slow and fight to keep your hips and shoulders stacked the entire time. Oh, and keep a smile on your face or it doesn’t work. It’s Sean Science.
Deep below the abdominal wall, you have a long and strong hip flexor muscle called the Psoas Major. This muscle attaches from the Lesser Trochanter of the Femur and anchors itself to the Transverse Process or T12 – L5. When you are in a seated position, this muscle is shortened (much like your hamstrings are when your knees are bent). If you spend a long time in a seated position, the Psoas Major adapts and wants to stay in the shortened position, and thus, can pull on your lower back. Done correctly and consistently, this stretch can be magical in reducing the likelihood of the hip flexor cranking down on your lower back.
You will be hard-pressed to find another core exercise more powerful than the front planks.
I know that is a controversial statement and I’m sure many fitness experts are shaking their heads right now. Yes, I know the chop, lift, deadbugs and rolling patterns are super-duper but I am talking about the time and space efficient exercise intended to help drive relative stiffness through the trunk and light up the abs light the 4th or July.
If you have one better, let us know in the comments.
Try this exercise for ten seconds while you squeeze your glutes and pull your elbows down to your toes like never before. Don’t forget to breathe. Perform a few cycles of ten seconds while breathing fully and get back to dominating your day.
Don’t live with low back pain
If you already have lower back pain, or if it hurts when you do these movements, they might not be appropriate for you. You may need to seek low back pain treatment.
Consider making an appointment with us here at Tangelo.
As a local Seattle chiropractor and functional rehabilitation clinic, we can assess your issues and create a custom rehab program just for you! We also have a chiropractic care location in Portland, Oregon.
“I was in a car accident and had significant back pain. I’m typically very skeptical of chiropractors. My previous experience was that they helped people for a short period, but the patient had to continue to see them weekly or monthly for the rest of their lives. I was not interested in needing an adjustment every month for the rest of my life. Tangelo is sooo different! Mike helped give me the care I needed with hands-on adjustments, but more importantly gave me tools to stay healthy and keep my back from getting re-injured with specific exercises to increase strength where needed and how to upkeep at home. The whole team really cares about you as an individual patient, giving the time and attention needed. If I ever need to see a chiropractor again, I’ll be seeing Mike every time.”
– Sara B. // Seattle, WA
“I’ve had pain in the right side of my lower back and tightness in my hips for as long as I can remember! 5 pregnancies in 7 years, abdominal surgery, and constant, awkward baby-on-hip posture took its toll. I’ve always worked out, and have stayed in good shape through the years, but I learned to just power through the pain. I’ve asked my primary care doctor, I’ve visited chiropractors, I’ve had X rays, and I’ve had many (many many many many) massages, but the pain never resolved. I chalked it up to being almost 40, and figured I’d just have to deal with it. I decided to give Tangelo a shot, since it was right next to my OTF studio, and it seemed to be different than anything else I’d tried. The scheduling staff was super helpful in getting me an intake appointment, and there was a pretty wide range of times available. I saw Dr. Mike Smith for my exam, and he’s great; very warm and friendly and super knowledgeable. He explained the mechanics of everything that was working well in my body and everything that wasn’t working as well as it could! It came down to the fact that I wasn’t engaging my core well (thanks kids) and was using my hips/quads/back instead of my glutes/hamstrings when I SHOULD be using my glutes/hamstrings. I basically needed to re-train myself to move/position correctly in certain exercises and everyday movement. He came up with a plan for exercises etc. that the rehab team would take me through a few times a week over the course of the next month or so. I mainly worked with Geneva and Emmie, who were also so knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. Every visit, they helped me with exercises, and sent me with “homework” so I could continue some of the exercises/rolling at home. The exercises seem very simple but are much harder than they look, and they have helped me break old habits and learn how to move in a better way. To be honest, I thought “anchor breathing” was a bit of a joke at first, but I absolutely swear by it now! Who knew?? I’m more mindful of how I’m breathing, sitting, standing, and moving all the time. Now, after I exercise, I have muscle soreness (the good kind!) in muscles that I SHOULD be using. The best part: the soreness in my back and tightness in my hips that I’ve had DAILY for over a dozen years, decreased tremendously over the past month, and has been almost nonexistent over the last week. Super happy! Cannot say enough great things about Tangelo!”
– Emily P. // Green Lake – Seattle
“I finally have time to write this review because I have been so busy with my job as a nurse and caring for my toddler. After having my kid 3 years ago I developed horrible back pain; the kind where you can’t walk because you are stuck in a position. I do not like strong pain medication, and didn’t want to live on ice and ibuprofen, so I just lived with good days and bad days. I finally decided that living with limiting pain was not good enough for my life or my family. Enter Tangelo. My goal for therapy was not to run a marathon or bench press 500lbs; I simply wanted to be able to run after my toddler. With the help of Dr Krysann and the rehab team, I am happy to say I am living most days with little to no pain. I am running after my daughter. I am picking her up and dancing with her. I have not been to see them since July, but that’s because I am functioning so well, not for lack of time. (But I am sure glad to know they are there if I have an acute episode!) I apologize for the length of this review; perhaps it is less a review and more a thank you. If you want to get back to life, I highly recommend giving them a call!”
– Megan R. // Seattle, Washington