5 Best Back Stretches for Stiffness & Pain (Feel the Relief)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 8, 2024
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Whether you’re dealing with a sore back from long hours at a desk or post-intensive back exercises, back stretches are often overlooked but incredibly effective for relieving soreness and stiffness.

To help our readers and clients better understand how and when to do a back stretch, we got a physical therapist to help out with putting together this information.

We’ll cover everything from the basic child’s pose to the more advanced supine twist to give you plenty of options.

Quick Summary

  • Some effective ways to stretch the back muscles include the cat-cow stretch, child's pose, spine twist, hip flexor stretch, and glute bridge.
  • Stretching can be one of the easiest ways to deal with low back pain, especially after a tough training session.
  • Research indicates that back exercise therapy may modestly alleviate chronic lower back pain, with improvements ranging from 4 to 15 percent in short-term and long-term outcomes.
  • In my opinion, doing simple back stretches regularly and taking a high-quality post-workout supplement can help prevent muscle soreness.

5 Back Stretches To Start Doing Right Now 

A woman doing the child's pose back stretch

Here are five back stretches that we've found effective for back pain relief:

1. Child’s Pose

According to the Mayo Clinic, the Child's Pose is beneficial for stretching your back and the muscles around your hips [1].

Here's how to do it:

  1. Start on all fours with knees under hips and hands under shoulders.
  2. Lower your buttocks onto your ankles, reaching forward to intensify the upper back stretch.
  3. Move your right arm to the right, bringing the left hand along.
  4. Hold for 15 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

2. Spine Twist

A woman doing a spine twist on a yoga mat

Known as the supine twist, this pose can help stimulate digestion, promote balance, and relax the chest, shoulders, and upper back muscles.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with legs stretched out.
  2. Bend your left knee and bring it beside the other leg.
  3. Keep shoulders on the mat, turning your head to the left arm and shoulder for a stretch in the lower back and abdominal muscles.

3. Cat-Cow Stretch

This cat-cow stretch is another easy yoga movement ideal for lower back pain.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Start on all fours with a neutral spine.
  2. Tilt your head forward, lowering it as you lift and round your spine.
  3. Hold for ten seconds, then return to the starting position.
  4. Lift your head, looking at the ceiling, and arch your back.

Over the years, I've noticed that this stretch can be really helpful in easing neck pain, especially when working with my clients.

4. Glute Bridge

A woman doing a glute bridge

The Glute Bridge is a great post-workout cool-down that requires no equipment. It can enhance glute strength, core stability, and lower back health.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Start by lying on your back with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Push your hips up, feeling the stretch in your lower back.
  4. Lower after about 15 seconds, keeping your knees bent.
  5. Repeat this several times.

5. Hip Flexor Stretch

Also known as the knee-to-chest stretch, this exercise is also great for relieving pressure and tightness in the hips.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift one leg, placing the foot on the opposite thigh.
  3. Gently pull the opposite leg toward your chest, maintaining the knee bend.
  4. Repeat the movement on the other side.

Also Read: 9 Top Tensor Fasciae Latae Stretches

What Is The Best Way To Stretch Back Muscles?

A woman stretching her back muscles

The best way to stretch back muscles for back pain relief is to get into the yoga child’s pose. If it’s general back pain from sitting at a desk all day, then this should be a gentle way to get some relief.

For athletes who are dealing with stiff muscles after a strength training workout, stretching in this way will also provide a lot of relief.

As a fitness trainer, I've found that clients dealing with posture issues like forward head alignment benefit from incorporating regular stretching with basic back exercises—a viewpoint supported by Spine-Health [2].

“Forward head posture (FHP) is a common condition where your head is positioned with your ears in front of your body’s vertical midline. In normal or neutral head posture, your ears line up with your shoulders and midline.”

- Courtney Sullivan, Certified Yoga Instructor

When Is The Best Time To Stretch It? 

A woman stretching out her back

The best time to stretch your back is after completing an upper-body workout routine.

If you experience regular back pain, I personally recommend incorporating the above exercises into your daily routine.

Additionally, my physical therapist advised that individuals who spend long hours sitting at a desk should perform these stretches daily to improve posture, a recommendation supported by research from the National Institute of Health [3].


How Do You Loosen A Tight Back?

You loosen a tight back with target stretches. You need to focus on a few different poses and movements to cover both your upper and lower back muscles effectively.

Is It Good To Stretch Your Back If It Hurts?

Yes, it can be good to stretch your back if it hurts. However, if you have chronic nerve pain like sciatica, then it’s better to discuss a stretching routine with a doctor or physio.


  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/multimedia/childs-pose/vid-20453580
  2. https://www.spine-health.com/blog/ways-improve-forward-head-posture
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4499985/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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