This is the first exercise for the lower back from the book Overcome Neck & Back Pain. Much of the pain of low back pain comes from the muscles and fascia of the lower back. Anyone who is suffering low back pain is loathe to stretch this area because it hurts too much, and if you avoid any movement pattern, it's not long before you lose your confidence in this critical part of the body.
This simple exercise loosens the oblique muscles and fascia first and then, by adding a gentle rotation, lets quadratus lumborum be stretched in time, too. For many people, quadratus lumborum (or "QL") is the location of the pain of their back pain; QL are also the deepest of the spinal muscles.
The last part of the exercises uses trapezius to stretch latissimus dorsi—which connects directly to the thoraco-lumbar fascia, another significant pain location.
All the movements that form this exercise happen with the spine unloaded, and while the relevant muscles are relaxed—so you can get the movement and the stretch without the pain and discomfort that a loaded spine will feel.
Make sure you stretch the tighter side a second time; experience shows that reducing any marked right–left difference in a key function like this is strongly correlated with reduced low back pain.
Hi, I'm going to take you through the subtleties of the very first exercise in the book which we found, and many other people have found, to be extremely effective for stretching out the tension and the pain of low back pain. It's an exercise which done properly stretches the obliques, quadratus lumborum, and latissimus dorsi, too. I've got a pillow here too, in front of me. You might be wondering why. I'll show you what that's for in a moment.
The first thing is a chair with a nice comfortable base, especially if you've got piriformis problems. The second thing is you need to have your knees spread widely enough apart so that you can actually hold onto the base of the chair, which is what makes this one a particularly good chair to use. Then you'll take a breath in, sit up straight, and on a breath out, let yourself go down to the side, slowly like this.
Now, if you find that that's too much of a stretch there, then grab the pillow and put the pillow in between your arm and the leg like this. This way, you can let everything go to the side and you can rest on the pillow, and that will be so much more comfortable. Try to get this shoulder above this shoulder, and also let the head go to the side as well. Most people forget that the cervical spine is part of the spine. And, breathe in and out a little bit in that position.
To move the stretch from the absolute outside of the waist, into the deeper back, roll the top shoulder forward like this, and then lean further to the side. That takes it away from there and moves it around into the back. Breathe in and out. Then to finish the stretch off, bring the arm in front of the body like this, reach it out above the shoulder, and then watch, reach the arm off the body as far as possible.
Reaching the arm off the body as far as possible like this stretches latissimus dorsi, and that for some people can be just a wonderful sensation. Then roll the top shoulder a bit further forward and feel the stretch move further into the back. Top shoulder a bit further forward, and it moves even further into the back. And then at some point, for me, today, about here actually, the stretch disappears completely.
So then you reach the hand down, put it on the cushion or the knee like this, and lift yourself out. And then you do the other side. So follow along while I do the other side. Get comfortable on the chair, put the pillow in position if you need it, hold the side of the chair, and make sure you've got a really good grip here. The sense should be that you're hanging off this arm. Take a breath in, settle yourself, make sure the knees are spread far enough apart, and also notice I've got my feet slightly in front of my knees, that's for stability.
On a breath out, slowly let yourself down, like so. Now if your top shoulder is above your bottom shoulder, as mine is, you'll feel the stretch at the side of the waist here. Just keep leaning, keep playing, keep leaning until you're resting your whole body's weight on this arm. Breathe in and out a couple of times in that position. And then when you're ready, if you need a stronger stretch, bring the arm across in front of the body like this, roll the top shoulder back as well, and then watch, reach this arm off the body.
It's the reaching off the body which stretches latissimus dorsi, and let the head go to the side as well. Then, to move the stretch further into the back itself, roll the top shoulder forward slightly while still reaching out, breathe in and out a couple of times, and then roll the top shoulder forward a fraction more, reach out even further, breathe in and out, let the head go to the side.
As I said before, when you get to a certain point, that's this point for me now, you'll find the stretch has disappeared, so you reach the arm down, put it on the knee, and lift yourself up using the top arm. Now, the reason for lifting yourself up out of each stretch is we don't want to use the muscles that we've just stretched to do that work, so basically, if you think about how can I move the body the gentlest and nicest way possible, you'll know exactly what to do.