Top 3 Stretches for Back Pain

By Kristen Wilson, PT, DPT

Low back pain affects nearly 80% of adults at some point in their lifetime. It is a leading contributor to missed workdays and reported disability in the United States.

Though most low back pain is short term, lasting a few days to weeks, the pain can at times be unbearable to those suffering. Pain often ranges in intensity from a dull aching to sharp, shooting, throbbing and even burning.

Low back pain can come on suddenly resulting from lifting something heavy or an accident, or it can be gradual due to a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture and age-related changes.

Regardless of what is causing your low back pain or how intense your symptoms are, below are the top 3 stretches for low back pain. These are stretches that can be performed at home without any equipment.

rib stretch healthy aging

Rib pull stretch

Rib Pull Stretch:

This stretch is a great way to loosen your thoracic, or mid, spine to increase your flexibility as well as improve your shoulder mobility.

• To start the stretch, lay on the floor/bed on your side with your head supported.

• Bend your top hip to about 90 degrees bringing your knee up towards your chest. If you have a foam roller, you can place your top knee on the foam roller.

• Place your top hand on your ribs and begin rotating your top shoulder to the floor away from your knee, pulling your ribs in the direction you are rotating.

• Keep your knee in contact with the floor or foam roller.

• Breathe into the stretch, trying to lower your shoulder down as much as you can. Maintain this position for about 1 minute.

cat camel stretch

Cat camel stretch


This is a great stretch to help mobilize your entire spine.

• To start, get onto all fours in a table-top position.

• Make sure that your hands are under your shoulders and knees are under your hips

• If you have wrist pain, place your hands slightly forward or on a harder surface. For any knee pain use a pillow or cushion.

• Inhale and look up to the ceiling, letting your spine sink down toward the bed, allowing your belly to fill with air.

• Press into your hands and knees as you exhale, tucking your chin into your chest and lifting your spine towards the ceiling.

• Continue in this movement pattern arching up and down for about 1 minute.

Single or Double Knee to Chest

Single or Double Knee to Chest

Single or Double Knee to Chest:

This is a great stretch to help relax your hips, thighs, and glutes as well as promote overall relaxation.

• To start, lie on your back with legs flat on the floor, knee caps facing the ceiling.

• For a single knee to chest, keep your left leg straight out on the floor

• Draw your right knee into your chest, placing you hands behind your thigh or at the top of your shin bone.

• Lengthen your spine all the way down to your tailbone, avoiding lifting your hips.

• Breathe deeply and hold for about 1 minute.

• Repeat on the other leg.

• For double knee to chest, bring both knees up towards your chest with your hands behind your thighs or at the top of your shin bones.

It is important to keep our spine healthy which includes active movement of its many joints. If you find that you are consistently having low back pain despite trying the above stretches, or your pain lasts longer than a week, consider seeking professional help from a physical therapist or doctor to figure out the cause of your pain.

Physical therapy is a great resource in managing multiple conditions throughout the body and can help improve overall posture and body awareness.

Kristen Wilson, PT, DPT, is co-owner of Action Potential Physical Therapy with two locations in Glen Mills and Kennett Square PA. For more information visit or email

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