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  • SMARTPHYSIO

Easy tips to ease lower back tension


Most people will experience tightness in their back it at some point in their lives. Four experts reveal the causes and how to relieve pain The Times Thursday February 23 2023, 12.01am, The Times Fitness and Wellbeing Health Sammy Margo, physiotherapist Lower back tension is often accompanied by pain, aching, spasms, stiffness and cramping. There are several simple stretches and exercises you can do to improve flexibility and strength, and hence reduce tension in your back. Choose exercises that lengthen and extend the spine, which helps to reduce compression in the lower back. Daily activities such as walking, swimming and yoga are important.

Try this exercise to relieve tension and loosen the lower back and hip muscles, and you can also engage your core muscles if you feel comfortable. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips and your hands on your hips. Start by gently moving your hips from side to side, then slowly rotate your hips in one direction, making a large circle. Repeat ten times, then repeat in the other direction.

Use heat and cold therapy daily, preferably alternating them. The Deep Heat Warming Belt, with up to 12 hours of warming relief, or the Deep Heat Pain Relief Back Patch get my recommendation as you can apply them to the tense area to soothe discomfort, with the heat helping to relieve lower back tension and restore movement. The Deep Freeze Glide-on Gel can also be applied to the back and also helps with discomfort. If you want more information on back and spine stretches along with exercises, have a look at the Mentholatum Mind Your Back national campaign (mindyourbackuk.com).

Carol Clark, professor in physiotherapy Lower back tension is common and most of us will experience it at some time. The reasons I have experienced tension are due to having sat awkwardly, perhaps on an uncomfortable chair; having done some unaccustomed physical activity, generally in the garden; and because of feeling stressed and anxious.

If I experience lower back tension when sitting, I try to stand up, move around and find a more comfortable position. Ideally, if I am going to do some physical activity in the garden, I aim to pace the activity and try not to overdo it. Most times I forget and later in the day feel the muscles stiffen up. Then I might have a hot shower or bath and try some gentle stretches of the back to keep it mobile.

If it is because of feeling anxious, I find somewhere quiet and comfortable, taking three to four long, slow, deep breaths and focus on breathing out. I think about relieving the tension in the muscles around my neck and shoulders, then my arms and hands. Next, I focus on relaxing the muscles around my lower back, pelvis and legs. I then repeat the cycle. If nothing seems to help the tension in your lower back and you feel that it is not improving over time, consider seeking advice from a health professional.

Exercises that extend the spine can help reduce compression in your lower back GETTY IMAGES

Dr Roger Henderson, GP Tightness and muscle tension in the lower back is common and can affect our ability to perform basic everyday activities such as bending and twisting. This can be due to causes affecting the spine, muscles, joints and ligaments in that area, ranging from simple sprains and strains to arthritis and slipped discs. Symptoms are typically pain or discomfort in the lower back, sometimes radiating into the legs, along with stiffness and reduced movement of the back.

Certain risk factors increase the chance of developing low back pain including being overweight or pregnant — the extra weight places additional strain on the back — and smoking. Many cases are self-limiting and only need treating with simple painkillers and gentle stretching exercises, but to help to reduce the risk of back tension occurring, always maintain good posture when sitting, avoid long periods of inactivity, keep your weight down, warm up before any physical activities and make sure your mattress supports your spine correctly.

See your doctor if you have severe pain that doesn’t improve with rest, or pain after a fall or an injury. You should also seek medical advice if you have back pain plus any of these symptoms: trouble urinating; weakness, tingling or numbness in your legs or back; unexplained weight loss.


Lynne Robinson, founder of Body Control Pilates Lower back tension can be caused by a variety of things. It might be tight muscles from poor posture or it may be that you are simply sitting still for too long. Remember, our bodies like to move. Try to avoid long periods of inactivity and if you do have to sit, don’t slouch, sit tall and try to maintain the natural curvature of your lumbar spine. If necessary, and as a temporary measure, use a small cushion to support your lower back. But ultimately you’ll need to work on your deep postural muscles to redress the balance.

A few Pilates exercises done daily will help to mobilise your spine. The rocking cat is the perfect one to keep your spine supple. Note, cats don’t get stiff backs! To perform it, get on to all fours, and put your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips (a position known as four-point kneeling), keeping your spine long and retaining its natural curves. Engage your core muscles (by gently lifting inside) as necessary to control your movements. Move your spine on the out breath.

1. Curl your tailbone under and gently round your back, segment by segment, bottom to top, into an even elongated C curve. Take care not to overly round your upper back. 2. Still in your C curve, move back towards your heels to stretch out your lower back. 3. Move back forward again into four-point kneeling. 4. Starting with the tailbone, start to unravel your spine into extension, reversing the C curve, pushing your chest forward. Take care not to overly dip your lower back. 5. Curl your tailbone under again, rolling the spine back up into the rounded C curve. 6. Repeat moving back towards your heels to stretch out.

Repeat this cat-like rounding and stretching eight times.


taken from THE TIMES The Times Thursday February 23 2023, 12.01am, The Times Sammy Margo is a regular contributor

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