Back Stretches: Exercises

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Here are some examples of exercises for stretching your back. Start each exercise slowly. Ease off the exercise if you start to have pain.

Your doctor or physical therapist will tell you when you can start these exercises and which ones will work best for you.

How to do the exercises

Overhead stretch

slide 1 of 4
slide 1 of 4, Overhead stretch,
  1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Or sit up straight in a chair.
  2. Looking straight ahead, raise both arms over your head. Reach up and back with your arms until you feel a stretch in your shoulders. Do not allow your head to tilt back.
  3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then lower your arms to your sides.
  4. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Side stretch

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slide 2 of 4, Side stretch,
  1. Sit or stand up straight. If you're standing, keep your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Raise one arm over your head, and then lean to the other side.
  3. Slide your hand down your leg as you let the weight of your raised arm gently stretch your side muscles. If you're sitting, keep your buttocks flat on the chair.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Then switch sides.
  5. Repeat 2 to 4 times on each side.

Press-up back extension

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slide 3 of 4, Press-up back extension,
  1. Lie on your stomach, supporting your body with your forearms. Keep your elbows below your shoulders.
  2. Press your elbows down into the floor to raise your upper back. As you do this, relax your stomach muscles and allow your back to arch without using your back muscles. Don't let your hips or pelvis come off the floor.
  3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then relax.
  4. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Supported rest

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slide 4 of 4, Supported rest,
  1. Lie on your back with a rolled towel under your neck. Support your knees with something, such as pillows or folded towels or blankets. Extend your arms comfortably to your sides.
  2. Relax and breathe normally.
  3. Remain in this position for about 10 minutes.
  4. If you can, do this 2 or 3 times each day.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.