5 essential morning stretches to relieve back pain

Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist Robin Higginson recommends a series of morning stretches to relieve back pain and keep it at bay.

With 8 in 10 people in the UK affected by back pain at some point in their lives, myths about its cause and treatment are rife. One of the most unhelpful of these is avoiding exercise, but in most cases, movement can help you recover and prevent a recurrence.

An excellent place to start is with a routine of daily stretches to keep your back flexible and prepare you for a day of activity. It’s normal for some back exercises to cause mild discomfort in the spine, so don’t worry if this is the case. Perform these within the limits of your comfort and you should notice any pain improves over time.

These 5 clinically devised stretches are a great way to start your day. If any of them increase your pain or cause extra pain, speak to a physiotherapist or personal trainer for a bespoke alternative.

Best stretches for back pain

  1. Back flexion stretch
    While lying flat on your back, hug both knees into your chest and flex your head towards your knees, so you’re curled up in a ball. Hold for 10 seconds.

  2. Side bends
    While standing, slowly slide your hands down the side of each leg, going as far as you can until you feel any stretch or discomfort. Hold for 10 seconds and ease yourself back to standing. Repeat on the other side.

  3. Sitting flexion stretch
    Sitting on the edge of the bed, reach both hands down to touch the floor. Aim to curl your spine into a ball as you do so. Hold for 10 seconds and slowly return to sitting. Repeat this a few times until you feel it eases any stiffness.

  4. Hip stretch
    Lie flat on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Rest the ankle of your right leg on the knee of your left leg. Link your hands below your left thigh or over your knee and pull the thigh towards the chest. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side.

  5. Supine twist
    Lying on your back, place your arms on the ground with your palms down, so you’re in a T shape. Gently lift your feet until your shins are parallel to the ceiling. On an outward breath, lower your legs to the right, keeping your left shoulder on the ground if you can. Turn your head to look at your left hand, relax and hold for 10 seconds. Then bring your knees back to the centre and repeat on the opposite side.

Exercise of any form is helpful for managing most types of back pain. It’s an essential part of any treatment programme and is included in NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance.

For more advice on exercises for back pain, book an online appointment with one of our physiotherapists.

Last updated Wednesday 15 April 2020