Sitting all day is definitely not good for our backs, but since most of are stuck at a desk for 8 or more hours a day, it is inevitable that we feel stiff.
The reason your back may hurt after staying seated for long periods of time is that it puts a lot of stress on the spine, fatiguing and overstretching the ligaments.1 Sitting also tightens your hip flexors, which affects your pelvis and can increase the load on the lower back.
Important both for general well-being and for exercise, since a tight back can lead to injury, being sure to stretch your lower back can help stop back pain by relieving tired back muscles, and taking the pressure off your backbone. To avoid injury and stress, check out what our experts share as their favorite ways to stretch the lower back after sitting all day.
I would opt for Self-Massage after a long day at work instead of stretching the low back directly. Typically the low back gets tight because all the other muscles (hips flexors etc.) are pulling on it. For example, loosening up muscle knots in the glutes (butt muscles) with self-massage and stretching out the hip flexors may help relieve that lower back stiffness almost immediately. If I had to choose a of couple stretches, I would go with two Yoga poses – Downward Dog, or Child’s Pose. Both are great. For more ideas, check out this article on 7 Yoga Poses For Low Back Pain.
Also consider using proper ergonomics at work (positioning of your chair, desk, and computer), which is hugely important for not only your posture, but also how you look and feel. You won’t feel like you have to stretch your back at the end of the day if you have a proper desk / computer set up.
– Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT
After sitting all day, I think a good hamstring stretch held for 20-30 seconds for each leg can be great to relieve tension in the lower back. When the hamstrings are tight, they can pull on your hips, causing your glutes to not work as effectively and cause both your hips and low back to work harder when exercising or just doing everyday activities. Stretching the muscles below and at the hips, when seated for an extended period of time, usually will help to loosen up one’s lower back. The hamstrings are a great place to start with the hip flexors usually coming in as a close second.
– John Levya, CSCS, CPT
When you sit all day, this positions the body so your hips are in a flexed position. This wreaks havoc on your hip flexors, which in turn causes numerous other problems up and down your body – the most noticeable for many people being their low back.
In most cases, your lower back is better served by building stability, so stretching just your back won’t help. Instead, focus on stretching your hip flexors. Like, every day. Twice. The fact is that most people’s hip flexors end up incredibly tight from sitting all day. In most cases, this causes your pelvis to tilt forward, which in turn will tighten the muscles of your low back, causing a bigger arch, and give the appearance of tightness. Release the muscles that are causing the tightness to eliminate pain and dysfunction.
– Stephen Bergeron, CSCS, CPT
As someone with a history of multiple acute lower back injuries and chronic pain, I would say that we should not only to stretch what is tight-feeling, but also realign and re-stabilize the spine, so that things don’t have to be tight anymore.
Many people often assume that because something is tight that it needs to be stretched, which may be true and provide temporary relief, but it’s only half the battle. Stretching is a way to down-regulate a muscle, making it weaker. If a muscle feels tight and sore, it could be because that is what’s bracing to hold your spine together. If you stretch the tight muscles your spine is using for stability-albeit inefficiently-and simply carry on your merry way, you leave your back even more prone to soreness and injury. Instead of just stretching, try also adding in the “dead bug” exercise to strengthen your deep abdominal muscles. Perform as many as you can before you feel like it’s becoming too challenging to keep your spine in neutral.
– Monika Volkmar, Owner/Founder of The Dance Training Project
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