8 Stretches for Back Pain Relief: Why Your Back Needs to Stretch

How many times have you been sitting at your desk only to get up and feel a sharp pain in your back? This is one of the most common complaints that we hear from patients. There are stretches that can help alleviate this pain, but it’s important to know why stretching is necessary in the first place. Here we will discuss stretches for general pain, stretches for lower back pain, stretches for upper back pain, and when these stretches should be performed.

Stretching is Important for the Body

Why should you stretch? Regular stretching is important for the body because it helps improve flexibility, mobility, and range of motion. It can also help reduce aches and pains associated with tight muscles. For example, stretching your back will not only feel good, but also increase range of motion and significantly decrease pain in specific areas, including the lower back.

Stretches for the Upper Back

The upper back region of the body includes the shoulder blades and the upper trapezius muscles. The stretches below can help loosen up these muscles, which often become tight from sitting at a desk all day or from stress. Most stretches can be performed at home or work.

Pectoral Stretch

This stretch is great for the chest and pectorals. To perform this stretch, stand in an open doorway and raise each arm up to the side, bent at 90-degree angles with palms forward. Rest your palms on the door frame, and slowly step forward with one foot. Make sure to stand upright and don’t lean forward. Hold this position for 30 seconds.

Shoulder Blade Stretch

Typically, we like to holder our stress in our shoulder region. Prolonged poor posture can also cause pain in our upper back, between our shoulder blades. This stretch can help release some tension and shoulder pain.

Here’s how to do it:

Standing upright, cross your right elbow over your left elbow (or vice versa). Then take your left hand and wrap it around your right arm. If you’re not super flexible, that’s okay. Do what you can without forcing it.  Hold this position for about 30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeating this stretch daily can help relieve back pain, and you’ll see an increase in your flexibility.

Head Tilts

This stretch can help relieve tight muscles in the upper back and trapezius muscles. Here’s how it’s done.

Standing up or sitting in a chair, tilt your head to the left. Take your left hand and place it on the right side of your head, above your ear, to apply mild force and gently pull your head further left to stretch the upper back. Hold this position for about 20 seconds and then switch sides and repeat these movements two to three times on each side.

Side Stretch

Our latissimus dorsi muscle is one of the largest in the body. It runs along the sides of our body and makes up a majority of our back. This muscle gets very tight in some people and can cause pain and aches. There’s a simple stretch that can help relieve some tension.

In the starting position, you’ll be standing upright, feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor. Put both hands above your head and clasp your left hand with your right hand. Keep your abdominal muscles strong and breathe. Use your left hand to pull your right hand over your head to stretch your side. This is a gentle stretch that should be held for 20-30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat 2-3 times.

Extended Child’s Pose

This stretch will help the upper and lower back. An all-in-one deal! It’s easy, and taking deep breaths can relieve not only stress on your back but relieve overall stress from the day. This restful pose can be done any time of day and is great for your mental health.

Begin on the floor on your hands and knees. Place your knees slightly hip-width apart. With your toes pointed towards each other, have your knees bent, and push your hips back to sit on your heels. Next, extend and straighten your arms forward with your elbows close to your ears. Let your head fall to the floor, close your eyes, and relax. Hold for about 20 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. Next time you feel stress from the day, try this restful pose.

Stretches for the Lower Back

Lower back pain is a common complaint amongst adults. Here are some easy stretches you can do at home to help alleviate the pain and aches.

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

For the knee to chest stretch, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Next, interlace your fingers under your right knee and gently pull your knee towards your chest until you feel a gentle stretch in your low back. Make sure to keep your left foot flat on the floor. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, then release your right knee. Go back to the starting position and switch to the opposite side.

Lying Knee Twist

This simple stretch can be done just about anywhere for back pain relief.

Lie on your back with your legs extended. Then bring both knees to your chest. Extend your arms to the side and place your palms face down on the floor. Next, roll both knees to one side (right or left) and make sure to keep your knees together. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then switch to the left side.

You can also perform this stretch one knee at a time. Instead of pulling both knees to your chest, do one at a time. For example, leave your left leg flat on the floor and pull your right knee towards your chest. Let your knee cross over your body and to the floor.


You often see this stretch done in yoga classes. It is a great stretch for your abdominal muscles, neck, and tight back muscles.

Begin on all fours on the floor with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders with your arms extended. From this position, you’ll do the “cat” part of the move first. Arch your back and think of pulling your belly button inward, towards your spine. Let your head fall forward and chin into your chest. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds.

Next is the cow position. Gently arch your back and lift your chin towards the ceiling. Let your pelvis tilt forward. You’ll feel a gentle stretch in your low back. Hold for 5-10 seconds and go back to the starting position. You can repeat this movement as many times as you’d like, but shoot for around 15 times.

Supported Bridge

For this stretch, you will need a foam roller or a firm cushion.

The starting position for this movement will begin with you on the floor. Lie on your back, legs extended. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips towards the ceiling and place a foam roller or firm cushion underneath. Let your full body relax into the floor, and let the roller or cushion support your lower back. This move will help decompress your lower back. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds.

Visit Your Local Chiropractor for Expert Back Pain Relief

Regular stretching is great for your back muscles and spinal health. Along with regular spinal adjustments, a few minutes of stretching daily can reduce back pain and increase flexibility and mobility. Your local chiropractor can help relieve pain and get your feeling back to yourself. They can also provide even more health tips and exercises to add to your daily stretching. For example, exercises that strengthen the core muscles can help improve posture and keep your back muscles from straining or getting too tight.

The professionals at ADIO Chiropractic in Middleton, WI are here to help answer your questions and get your back to feeling your best. When the spine is aligned, all of your body can function properly. When your body is feeling its best, you can live your best life. Give us a call today or schedule an appointment online and see how we can help you improve your life!

We look forward to hearing from you!

Request an appointment online or contact us by phone at (608) 824-0950

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