If you are like me and you sit at a desk all day long, you may want to try some lower back stretches at work! Sitting for long periods of time is one of the worst things we can do for our bodies.
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So many people spend hours upon hours each day sitting in front of a computer screen without moving. Posture can really be affected by sitting all day. We tend to slouch our back and shoulders as fatigue sets in. I know I have to really focus so I am not hunched over, looking at my keyboard, or monitor. I end up with my elbow on my desk and my chin in the palm of my hand (thankfully no drooling).
I really try to maintain an upright seated position. If you struggle with some of these same issues, you have come to the right place. I would like to provide some help with performing lower back stretches at work.
Tight hamstrings are a major contributor
Hamstrings can definitely contribute to low back pain. One of the things I like to do is stretch my hamstrings at my desk while I am working. This can be done a couple of different ways. First, is to stay seated in your chair and fully extend one of your legs (right) with your heel on the floor and toes pointed up. Then lean over your fully extended leg, keep your back straight, so you are not slumping or slouching, and feel the hamstring stretch.
The hamstrings can get really tight from sitting a lot. This stretch will help to release some of the tension in the hamstrings. You can hold for 15-20 seconds to start and work your way up from there. Rinse and repeat on the other side as well.
Another way to do this is to actually stand up (I know right, actually get out of your seat) and with your feet about shoulder width apart, slowly bend over. This stretch will work your hamstrings, glutes (butt muscles) and lower back. This one is tough for me, but I certainly work on it when I feel tight. This is a good stretch for some people, but if you have an injured back, this toe touch stretch may not be a good one for you. If this hurts, please don’t do it.
Hip flexors and piriformis
The next example is kind of two-fold. The starting position is the same for these two stretches. In the seated position, you will put your right foot on top of your left knee. The first stretch will be for the hip flexor. With your right ankle resting on your left knee, gently push your right knee toward the floor.
For me, this is really good for opening up my hips and stretching my hip flexors. Since I have a hard time getting my right foot onto my left knee, I actually end up moving my left foot, the foot on the floor, back a little bit. This lowers my left knee and reduces the angle for the stretch. This is because I am pretty tight on the right side, so that helps. Hold this for as long as you feel the stretch, start slow and work your way up. I hold this for about 30 seconds.
Now for the second stretch from this position. Again, start with your right ankle on the left knee, then gently pull your right knee in toward your chest. This will stretch the piriformis, and glute muscles. This is good for a whole butt stretch! Repeat on the other side as well. For more information on stretching your piriformis muscle click here.
Twist and shout (okay don’t shout)
Doing a gentle seated twist is a great way to improve spinal flexibility and it’s a really good stretch for low back pain. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but here goes. This can be somewhat easier to do if you have a chair that doesn’t swivel, but you can definitely still do this stretch in a swivel chair as well. If you have a swivel chair, you can twist your torso to the right and grab ahold of the seat, or your low back, with your right hand. Then put your left hand on the outside of your right thigh and gently pull with your left hand. You will want to try to look over your right shoulder, in this case. Hold this for a few seconds to make sure it feels okay, then release.
Again, you want to start slow and work your way up as far as how long you hold this stretch. Repeat for the left side. Left hand behind you, grab your left outer thigh with your right hand and gently twist and look over your left shoulder. If you have a chair that doesn’t swivel, you can reach around and grab the back of the chair with your right hand if you are twisting to the right, or left hand if twisting to the left. This can give you a little more leverage if you need it.
Yoga poses…at work?
A variation on the popular yoga pose, cat-cow can be done in a chair as well. The cat-cow exercise can help stretch the muscles in the low back, as well as core muscles. This hopefully helps to keep the spine happy and healthy. Place your hands with fingers pointed inward toward each other, on the mid to outer part of your thigh, just above the knee. As you exhale, you want to arch your back and lift your head toward the ceiling. Then as you inhale, roll your shoulders forward, pull your belly button in toward the spine and tuck your chin toward your chest.
The name sort of explains the move. As you roll your shoulders forward and suck your belly button in and round your back, that is the cat part. The cow part is where your back is arched and your head extended high, like a mowing cow. At least that is my take on it.
Take your walking or running shoes to work
These are simple stretches that you can do a couple of times during the day. Honestly, one thing that is a really big help for me is to just get up and walk around. Every couple of hours I take a short walk inside or outside of our building. This not only gives me a much-needed break, but it also allows me to get my muscles moving and gets me out of the same seated position. I typically bring my lunch to work and will often take a walk during my lunch break.
Muscles really get tight when they are in the same position so much of the time. It’s great to get up and move your body to help loosen things up. It also gets my blood flowing and I feel a lot more refreshed. If you have any pain performing these exercises, you will definitely want to stop.
These stretching tips have worked for me and I will continue to perform them. I hope you can do the same. If you need some additional suggestions, check out this article from Mayo Clinic Happy stretching.
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