Back Stretches

8 Exercises to Reduce Pain and Increase Flexibility

Back stretches may help you relieve tight back muscles caused by everyday activities. Over time, muscle tension can cause significant back pain and increase your risk of a back injury. Routinely performing back stretches can help ward these issues off.

Some effective back stretches include:

  • Knees-to-chest backstretch
  • Supine twist back stretch
  • Prone bridging back stretch
  • Supine abdominal draw-in back stretch
  • Supine butt lift back stretch
  • Cat-cow back stretch
  • Seated forward curl back stretch
  • Side stretch

This article teaches you how to do each of these back exercises correctly and safely. Collectively, they work all of the major back muscles so you can support a healthy back, ease backache, and prevent future problems.

Warming Up Your Muscles

Stretching cold muscles can lead to injury. Always warm up first by:

  • Doing between five and 10 minutes of activity, such as walking (preferred)
  • Applying moist heat for 15 to 20 minutes before stretching 

Knees-to-Chest Back Stretch

Woman does the double legged stretch.
bdibdus

To perform the knees-to-chest back stretch:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands on the back of your thighs or below your knees and pull your legs toward your chest.
  3. Pull until you feel a gentle stretch.
  4. Hold for 15 seconds.
  5. Return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 9 more times.

Supine Twist Back Stretch

A woman in the supine position twists her spine by bringing her knees to one side.
Supine spinal twist. cirkoglu

To do the supine twist back stretch:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Keeping your back flat on the floor, rotate your hips to the left, lowering your legs down to the floor until you feel a gentle stretch.
  3. Hold for 15 seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Next, rotate your hips to the right, lowering your legs down to the floor until you feel a gentle stretch.
  6. Hold for 15 seconds.
  7. Return to the starting position.
  8. Repeat this sequence 9 more times.

Prone Bridging Back Stretch

woman doing cobra yoga position

 Cal Crary / Taxi / Getty Images

To perform the prone bridging back stretch:

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Prop yourself up on your elbows, extending your back.
  3. Start straightening your elbows, further extending your back.
  4. Continue straightening your elbows until you feel a gentle stretch.
  5. Hold for 15 seconds.
  6. Return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat 9 more times.

Supine Abdominal Draw-In Back Stretch

Person with light skin and short hair lies on their back with knees bent

Justin Pumfrey / Getty Images

You can do the supine abdominal draw-in back stretch by:

  1. Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Pushing the small of your back down and into the floor by tightening your lower abdominal muscles.
  3. Holding for a count of 10.
  4. Returning to starting position.
  5. Repeat 9 more times.

Supine Butt Lift Back Stretch

Woman in leggings and sleeveless top performing back bridge stretching exercise, lying on floor, side view
Ruth Jenkinson / Getty Images

For the supine butt lift back stretch:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Push down through your feet as you slowly lift your bottom off the floor.
  3. Hold for a count of 10.
  4. Return to starting position.
  5. Repeat 9 more times.

Cat—Cow Back Stretch

Cat Cow Stretch
Ann Pizer

To do the cat-cow back stretch:

  1. Kneel on the floor in an all-fours position on your hands and knees.
  2. Curl your back up toward the ceiling like an angry cat.
  3. Hold for a count of 5.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Pull your stomach down to the floor, hollowing out your back.
  6. Hold for a count of 5.
  7. Return to the starting position.
  8. Repeat 9 more times.

Seated Forward Curl Back Stretch

To perform the seated forward curl back stretch:

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Curl your neck, upper back, and low back forward until your chest is on your thighs and you can touch the ground with your hands.
  3. Hold for a count of 10.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 9 more times.

Side Stretch

For the side stretch:

  1. Stand up straight with your arms at your sides and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your trunk sideways to the left while sliding your left hand down your thigh and reaching your right arm over your head.
  3. Hold for a count of 10.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Now, bend your trunk sideways to the right while sliding your right hand down your thigh and reaching your left arm over your head.
  6. Hold for a count of 10.
  7. Repeat this sequence 9 more times.

A Word From Verywell

While these back stretches are generally safe and helpful, they may not be right for you. Talk to your healthcare provider about this or any other exercise regimen before getting started.

Your provider can determine whether any of these back stretches could be harmful for you. They may also suggest seeing a physical therapist, who can make sure you're doing everything properly and safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Fontana Carvalho AP, Dufresne SS, Rogerio de Oliveira M, et al. Effects of lumbar stabilization and muscular stretching on pain, disabilities, postural control and muscle activation in pregnant woman with low back pain. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2020;56(3):297-306. doi:10.23736/S1973-9087.20.06086-4

By Laura Inverarity, DO
 Laura Inverarity, PT, DO, is a current board-certified anesthesiologist and former physical therapist.