The best stretches to help with back pain

Back pain is incredibly common – and those of us who spend the majority of our days stuck at our desks are most at risk.

As well as impacting every area of your life, back pain can really compromise your ability and desire to get active.

Who wants to go the gym when their muscles are on fire?

There are lots of conditions and circumstances that can cause back pain, and often people are forced to resort to long-term medications or invasive surgery.

But there are things you can try before you turn to drastic measures – stretching is one of them.

Nikki Robinson has been a physiotherapist for 25 years.

She swears by a stretching technique called myofascial release, which aims to work with your body to find and treat the cause of symptoms such as pain, tension and inflammation.

What is myofascial release?

Myofascial release is a medicine therapy that claims to treat skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles.

It is traditionally accepted that myofascia is the connective tissue in and around muscles, particularly those muscles that are important for posture.

So this technique aims to alleviate tension, restrictions and adhesions in the myofascia, in order to restore balance and function.

Drawing of a woman experiencing back pain

Nikki has given us her expert insight into simple stretches you can do at home if you’re suffering from back pain. So instead of reaching for more painkillers – why not give these a try first.

Tennis ball stretch

Lie on your stomach on the floor with your ball – you can lie on a bed but put a book under the ball so it doesn’t disappear into the mattress.

On your loosest side, locate the bone at the front of your hip. Place the ball on the inside of the bone and towards your belly button. Lie face down on the ball for 10 minutes.

Repeat on the tighter side.

Pelvic tilt

Lie on your back with both knees bent, feet on the bed.

Slowly pull your belly button in towards your spine, tilting your pelvis towards the ceiling then release.

Gently repeat this rocking motion until you feel your back loosen. This is also a very good exercise to help support your back – do the same movement and then hold the tilt for five seconds.

Do five sets of 20 repetitions.

Illustration of a woman sitting at a desk working on a laptop

Desk work and slouching over your laptop can make back pain worse (Picture: Ella Byworth)

Knee rocking

Lie on your back with both knees bent.

Keeping your feet on the bed, gently move your knees together from one side to the other. This is great for loosening your back before you get out of bed in the morning.

Repeat, gradually going further to each side until you feel your back has freed up.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how far you move, just that you are feeling into the movement and not forcing your body.

Knees to chest

Lie on your back with both knees bent.

Bring one of your knees up towards your chest and hold it with both hands, keeping your head and the rest of your back resting on the floor or bed.

Using your arms, slowly pull your knee further in to your chest until you feel a gentle pull. Hold there until you feel it release – do not move into pain.

You can increase the pull by straightening the other leg onto the bed.

Repeat with the other leg.

Back pain advice

Stay as active as possible and try to continue your daily activities – this is one of the most important things you can do, as resting for long periods is likely to make the pain worse.

Try exercises and stretches for back pain; other activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and Pilates may also be helpful.

Take anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen – remember to check the medicine is safe for you to take first and ask a pharmacist if you’re not sure.

Use hot or cold compression packs for short-term relief. Although it can be difficult, it helps if you stay optimistic and recognise that your pain should get better.

People who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.



Of course, stretches can only do so much, and if you are experiencing chronic, debilitating pain then you should speak to your GP about your options.

But stretching and limiting your sedentary time every day are all good ways to ward off the worst of the pain and counteract some of the damaging effects of having a desk job.

Banish back pain and get back to your active best in no time – being pain-free is an excellent incentive to get moving.

Manuel Elliott

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