Pain Free Working

18 Lower Back Stretches for Pain Relief From Desk Work

Almost everyone in the world gets back problems at one time or another. It could be because you slept awkwardly, or maybe you pulled a muscle while lifting something heavy, or it might have been due to an accident. Usually, however, the main culprit of lower back pain is sitting for long periods and not moving enough.

Unfortunately, the majority, if not all, office workers almost always sit at their desks for most of the day. Due to this, a lot of workers develop back pain and a multitude of health conditions. When we sit for too long, we risk muscle deterioration, soreness, strains, nerve damage, rounding of the upper back, compressed discs in the lower spine area, and more. 

Lower back pain, especially a chronic one, can be a very debilitating condition. Fortunately, there are effective and cost-efficient ways to soothe or prevent it. One of those ways is to do stretch exercises. We’ve rounded up the best lower back stretches you can do to reduce your pain. Check them out!

What Helps Lower Back Pain from Sitting Too Long?

As mentioned earlier, there are ways to reduce and alleviate lower back pain from sitting for too long at your work desk. Some of them include taking breaks from your desk, walking around the office, and using an ergonomic accessory such as a lumbar support pillow which can help with the natural curvature of your spine. Another way to reduce your sitting time is to adopt the sit-stand method of working, where you alternate between sitting and standing as you do tasks throughout the day.

Aside from the ones mentioned, one surefire tried and tested way to help back pain is stretching. According to research, physical activity such as stretching and exercising can increase the blood flow to the lower back area, helping to reduce stiffness and speed up the healing process. When you stretch, you improve the flexibility of the muscle tendons and ligaments in the back, increasing the range of motion of your joints. A good stretch can also loosen tight muscles and decrease the compression on your spine.

How Do You Relieve Lower Back Pain at Work?

Being stuck in your seat and working for several hours with little to no movement can cause problems. The muscles in your back and legs can become tight, causing strain, soreness, and pain. When you experience too much back pain, this can hamper not only your productivity at work but also your overall quality of life. A direct way to address lower back pain is to do stretches. Here are some stretches that you can do at work. Some of these require the use of your chair or desk, and some of them require to be performed on the floor. 

Seated Stretch

Improve the flexibility of your spinal flexors and obliques so that they can support your spine better. Begin this stretch by sitting with your legs extended in front of you. Cross your right leg over your left thigh. Next, place your right foot beside the outer side of your left knee. Then, place your left elbow outside your right knee and right arm on the floor with a straight elbow. 

Twist your lower trunk to the right while using your left arm to push your left leg in the opposite direction. Look over your shoulder. Hold this position for 10 seconds, and then do the same stretch on the other side.

Single Knee to Chest Stretch

Stretching on the floor can be very effective as it allows you to stretch more muscle groups in the upper body. To do this one, lie down on your back with your legs extended, and then slowly bring one knee up toward your chest. Grasp your knee with both hands either on top or under, and then gently pull it up towards your chest. You should feel a slight stretch in the low back, hip, and buttock. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds, and then repeat 3 to 5 times on each side.

Double Knee to Chest Stretch

Similar to the single knee to chest stretch, this one requires you to be on your back as well. This time, however, you bring both knees up toward your chest. Grasp your knees with both hands, either on top or under, and then gently pull them up to your chest. You should feel a mild stretch in the low back, hip, and buttock. Keep the pose for about 15 to 20 seconds, and then repeat 3 to 5 times.

Trunk Twist Stretch

This stretch is a great way to keep your lower back muscles flexible. It can also reduce the tension around your spine, hamstring muscles, and glutes. To do this, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor as your starting position. Spread your arms to the side with your palms face down. Tense your abdominal muscles. 

Next, lift your legs up, with your shins parallel to the floor. Try to stay in control as you slowly twist your lower trunk and rotate your legs to one side. Keep your core muscles engaged as much as possible. Keep this position for 3 to 5 seconds. Engage your core once more while slowly moving your legs to the other side, and then holding the pose again for 4 to 5 seconds. Repeat as many times as you desire.

Cat/Cow Pose

This is a yoga pose that greatly helps the spine and your core muscles. Start this by kneeling on all fours in a tabletop position, your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Exhale and gently arch your spine. Inhale as you tighten your core muscles, rounding your back as a cat would. Move slowly between the poses, holding them for 5 to 10 seconds each. Repeat about 10 times.

Child’s Pose

This is another common pose in yoga that can help you relax your body. To start, position yourself on the floor on your hands and knees, with your knees just wider than hip-distance apart. Next, turn your toes in to touch and push your hips backward, bending your knees. 

Once you’re in a comfortable position, extend your arms forward fully, allowing your head to fall forward in a relaxed position. Hold the pose for 20 seconds before slowly returning to your original position. Repeat for 3 times. If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, you can modify this pose by placing your arms on either side of your body, extending towards the feet.

Belly Flops

This stretch uses a rolled-up towel to decompress your lower back through supported elevation. To perform this, begin by rolling up a towel or a blanket lengthwise, placing it horizontally in front of you. Lie front-side down over the towel, your hip bones pressing into it. Relax your body as you do so. You can turn and rest your head to either side. Stay in this position for 1 to 2 minutes, and repeat for 1 to 3 times. Rest 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

Latissimus Dorsi Stretch

You can do this one while seated or standing. Make sure to keep your spine elongated and your chest raised when doing this. To perform this stretch, first choose whether you’d like to sit or stand, and then raise your right hand straight up, over the head. Bend the elbow so that your right hand drops towards the upper area. 

Next, place your left hand on the right elbow, gently pulling the right arm to the left. As you do that, bend your body in a straight line to the left side, making sure not to lean forward or backward. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then repeat on the opposite side.

How Can You Relieve Lower Back Pain While Sitting at a Desk?

Stretch exercises can improve your condition and increase your flexibility. Take a break from your tasks and give yourself and your body a moment to release tension build-up by doing stretches. Here are a couple of stretches you can do while seated at work to reduce lower back pain. That’s right; unlike the other stretches we’ve listed earlier, you don’t have to get up as these stretches can be done in the comfort of your office chair.

Seated Lateral Trunk Stretch

This can help relieve tension in your lower lumbar area. While seated, raise one arm over your head, placing your other hand on your thigh for support. Next, slowly bend to the opposite side of the raised arm until you feel a mild stretch along the side of your trunk. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds, then repeat 3 to 5 times on each side.

Abdominal Muscles Stretch

Start in a seated position with your hands on your lower abs. Next, with a slow controlled movement, draw your navel in towards your spine, bracing your abdominal muscles. Hold for a few seconds, and then relax. Do this 10 times for about 10 seconds each. Make sure to keep your posture tall throughout this exercise. Avoid bending forward or holding your breath.

Seated Neck and Back Bend (Eagle Arch Stretch)

Sitting in front of the computer for extended periods can lead to neck pain, rounded shoulders, and a hunched back. A stretch that you can do to reduce hunching and improve posture is the eagle arch. Sit at the edge of your chair with your back straight as your starting position. Next, place your arms slightly behind you, grasping the edge of the chair. Cross your right leg over your left. 

Then, connect the outer ankle of your right leg to the outside shin of your left leg. If you can, wrap your right foot around your left shin. Next, slowly arch your entire back by keeping your arms straight and pressing down on your hands. Inhale as you do so. Tense your abs and keep your trunk engaged.

Stay in this position for about 5 seconds, slowly breathing in and out. Afterward, slowly return to your starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

Seated Figure 4 Stretch

Begin by sitting in a chair, crossing one leg on top of the other so that your ankle is sitting over the opposite knee. Place one hand on the knee of your crossed leg. Next, gently lean forward while also gently pressing on the crossed knee until you feel a comfortable stretch in the hip and buttock area. Hold the seated figure 4 stretch for about 15 to 20 seconds, and then repeat about 3 to 5 times on each side.

Seated Knee to Chest Stretch

Start in a seated position, raising one knee as if you are marching, and reach for it with your hands. Use both your hands to pull the bent knee up toward your chest until you feel a gentle stretch in the lower back and back of the hip. You can place your hands on the top of your knee or behind your knee for comfort. Hold the pose for 15 to 20 seconds, and then repeat 3 to 5 times on each side.

Hamstring Reach

The leg muscles are the last thing we think about when we experience back pain. Tight hamstrings can affect the natural curve of the spine. Regularly stretching your hamstrings can loosen them up, helping relieve your lumbar pain. To start off, sit close to the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Next, slide your right leg out with your heel to the ground. Keep your knee straight and flex your toes up towards your shin.

Start to slowly reach forward towards your toes, keeping your back and spine straight. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat about 3 times. Afterward, repeat with your left leg.

Chair-Edge Hamstring Stretch

To do this, start by sitting on the edge of your chair with one foot on the ground while bringing the other straight forward in front of you and resting it on your heel. Gently lower yourself by hinging at the hips, leaning forward until you feel the stretch. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, repeat for 3 times before switching legs.

Downward Facing Dog Stretch

This is similar to the downward dog position in yoga, except that this one is done on your chair instead of a yoga mat. This stretch elongates both the upper and lower back, as well as your chest. Start by sitting upright with your feet flat on the floor. Next, raise your hands overhead. Slowly bend forward until your forearms are flat on the desk, your palms facing down. Hold this position for 5 seconds before slowly releasing.

Seated Pigeon Trunk Twist

This stretch opens up your stiff lower back, hips, and legs as well. First, sit in an upright position with your feet firmly on the ground. Next, place your right ankle on your left thigh. Using both hands, grab your right knee and slowly lift it towards you. Take a deep breath to stretch out the spine, and then exhale while twisting your body to the right. Hold for 2 seconds, inhale, and then slowly release to return to the original position. Do the same steps with your opposite knee.

Seated Knee to Opposite Shoulder Stretch

Sit upright in your chair, your feet on the ground. Next, cross one leg over the other, with your ankle resting on the opposite thigh. Pull your raised knee across your body, towards the opposite shoulder. Try to keep your back straight as you do this. Hold for 30 seconds, repeating it 3 times before switching legs.

When you spend most of your time sitting while working, hunching over your desk, and moving too little, you may experience episodes of back pain. Your back pain can turn into a chronic condition that may even develop into something irreversible. To reduce lower back aches, it’s important to change position, take breaks, take walks, or even use ergonomic furniture and accessories. Most importantly, performing stretches can greatly help relieve pressure and strain on your muscles, lessening the occurrence of back pain or preventing it altogether. Keep in mind that if you experience discomfort or exceptional pain, it’s best to seek a physical therapist or a doctor for professional advice. Stay safe!

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.