Stretching Your Back is Making Your Back Pain Worse

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Anyone who suffers from back pain usually has a morning routine where they stretch out their back upon waking.

Although this stretch feels good in the moment, it is actually doing more harm than good.

Now don't let this news upset you. We all thought that stretching our back was benefiting us, but as research progresses, we we've learned that this is not the case.

Let me explain why stretching your lumbar spine is hurting you

Most of us live in a state of constant flexion. Sitting hunched over a desk, driving, texting, watching television, sleeping. Some of us are in a hip-flexed position for as many as 20 hours per day. In fact look at yourself right now - you are probably sitting in front of your computer or on your phone reading this.

Although it sounds counterintuitive, low back pain for chronically flexed people is known as flexion-intolerant. I know, it doesn't make sense, right? How can you be flexion intolerant if you are flexed all day?

To help you understand, I need to explain the concepts of capacity and tolerance.

Capacity & Tolerance

In short, this refers to the fact that each person has a certain amount of work he or she is able to do (capacity) and a certain amount of load he or she can bear (tolerance) before pain or issue occurs. If tolerance is exceeded, this is when you will see pain and, ultimately, tissue damage will result.

So now you are thinking, how does this relate to back pain?

Too many people waste capacity with poor posture. Standing or sitting with crappy posture means there is a constant load applied to the spine, in addition to the prolonged shortening and lengthening of certain muscles. This not only leads to muscular imbalances and pain, but it also leads to decreased tolerance.

Think about your day - all of that sitting. Each of these flexed-spine positions is stealing some of your capacity. This means you will break into pain sooner during your day, your training, and your life. Doesn’t sound nice, does it?

Discipline of movement during everyday activities and improving lumbar stability is going to allow you to have more capacity for training. Or, if you are someone who has significant back pain, it could mean you have more capacity available for walking down the street, picking up your children, getting out of bed, or getting in and out of the car.

But stretching your lumbar spine isn’t going to help this. In fact, it’s stealing some of your capacity. Furthermore, as I mentioned, when you live in this flexed position all day, some muscles are elongated for extended periods of time, including your erector spinae, multifidus, lats, and glutes. These elongated positions mean those muscles are less able to produce force and resist further deformation of the spine.

What You SHOULD Do to Relieve Back Pain

As hard as it is, the simple truth is you need to stop stretching your lumbar spine. What you should be doing is:

  1. Work with a movement specialist

That may be a physical therapist, massage therapist, or corrective exercise specialist. Someone who understands

movement and can design a program for your specific issue is key.

2. Stabilize your Lumbar Spine

Perform exercises such as planks, glute bridges, and stretching your hamstrings and piriformis will stabilize the

lumbar spine and reduce stress in that area.

3. Improve your posture

Become mindful of the way you are sitting, standing. walking, and lifting.

4. Mobilize your hips and thoracic spine

Increasing the mobility of your hips and thoracic spine will allow the muscles in your back to function properly.

For help on addressing your low back pain, email

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