Runner Therapy: Stretches for Deep Lower Back Muscles
Question for Runner Therapy: Can you recommend deep lower back muscles stretches?
Marisa from Runner Therapy Says: The lower back is my nemesis professionally. Not just because it is the subject of the most annoying questions I get at dinner parties and casual meetings…”Oh , your a physical therapist? I have this lower back pain…”. As if I can in one conversation change the state of their pain forever. Unfortunately, the back is extremely complex. It can’t be solved or even mostly fixed in one conversation. One reason for this is the amount of joints making up the lower back is greater than almost anywhere in the body (only second to the mid back really). The second reason is because we use it literally all day, whether sitting, standing or even some laying down positions. It never gets a break.
The keys with low back pain are:
1. Gaining flexibility and mobility, not necessarily strength:
The spine wants more than anything to have freedom of movement. That not only means free range of motion in bending and rotating, but minimal strain from tight muscles attaching to its many joints
2. Consistency of stretching and range of motion movements:
The ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’ mentality especially applies. Thus it is more advantageous to do the exercises every hour or so even if for 5 minutes than once a day for 2 hours. The more you sit still, the tighter the spine gets. It used to be doctors placed patients on bed rest. Now they realize the rest just made the patient tighter.
3. Daily posture/positioning:
The everyday positions we put our spine in are far more debilitating over time than traumatic incidents. These ‘micro-traumas’ must be minimized with consistent good posture with the spine in a neutral, active, non-slumped position.
The best exercises are also the most simple.
- Prone Press-ups: Laying on your stomach, push up on either your forearms or your hands as far as you can arch your back with no discomfort at all. Try not to use any back or butt muscles…just use your hands and arms so the stretch is passive. Hold 3 seconds and come back down slowly. Repeat 3 sets of 10 several times a day. If you cant lie down at work, do the standing backward bend instead.
- Child’s pose: Hold this position and relax stretching the fingertips forward and the ‘sit bones’ backward to feel some tension in the spine. 30 second hold as often as possible daily.
- Cat/cow or angry cat stretch: On all fours, round the back from the pelvis pulling your abs in. Then let the mid section and belly hang as you rotate the pelvis back down. Perform several repetitions as often as you can, always leading with the pelvis, not the back.
- Lumbar rotation: Laying on your back, gently let the knees fall side to side as far as they can go with no discomfort. Repeat this 10 times on each side as often as possible
So don’t push through pain thinking “no pain, no gain”. Instead, keep moving, keep using and increasing your range of motion while sitting in good, active posture. Take care of it…it needs to hold you up for a lifetime!
Do you have lower back pain during or after running? What ways do you keep your lower back strong? Do you practice yoga or incorporate poses into your daily stretching? What other tips do you have for lower back health?
(Marisa, a MS PT SCS ATC, is a member of iRunnerBlog’s team and writes the Runner Therapy column, she is a physical therapist in private practice in midtown NYC called Dash Physical Therapy. She one of only a dozen or so physical therapists in the state of NY to be board certified in sports.)