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7 Relaxing Physiotherapy Stretches for Morning Back Stiffness

Waking up with a stiff back is one of the worst feelings. It can ruin your entire day and make you feel lazy in the mornings.

Physiotherapy as a gentle and effective way to reduce morning stiffness and improve mobility. Try these 7 stretches a couple of times a day, especially before sleeping and after waking up to set your day right. 

1.  Cat-Cow Stretch

Get in a cat/cow position on the floor on your hands and knees (all fours). Align your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.

For the Cat pose, round your spine up towards the ceiling, tucking your chin to your chest. Transition to the Cow pose by lifting your head and tailbone while allowing your belly to sink towards the floor.

Modifications: If your stiffness is severe, perform this stretch slowly or reduce the range of motion.

Benefits: The cat-cow stretch for back stiffness increases spinal flexibility and relieves tension in the torso, contributing to a more comfortable start to your day. As you arch and round your back, you loosen your back muscles. It also enhances blood flow to the back, nourishing the tissues and reducing discomfort.

2.  Seated Spinal Twist

Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Twist your torso to the right, holding the back of the chair for support with the opposite hand. For example, if you’re twisting to your right, bring your left hand across your body and hold the back of the chair with your left hand.

Maintain this position for about 5 seconds, taking deep breaths during the entire stretch. Then slowly return to the centre and repeat on the opposite side.

Modifications: Adjust the twist intensity based on your comfort level. Make sure you don’t experience any pain although slight discomfort is okay. You can put your hands on opposite shoulders and twist if that’s easier.

Benefits: This seated spinal twist for back stiffness loosens the lower back and promotes spinal mobility, which is vital for daily activities. It’s like wringing out a wet towel. This twist helps your back muscles stretch out and move better. It also gets the blood flowing in your back, which can make it feel less stiff and more comfy.

Plus, doing this twist can help your spine move more easily, which is great because it means you can bend and turn without feeling tight or sore. It’s a good way to wake your back up and get it ready for the day!

3.  Pelvic Tilt

Lie on your back with your knees bent such that you can rest your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and push your lower back into the floor. You should feel your pelvic (the bone around your waist) rotate.

Hold briefly, then try to suck your belly button in such a way that you feel your pelvic bone rotate in the opposite direction. Hold for 10 seconds maximum and return to the starting point.

Modifications: Perform the tilt with less intensity if you experience discomfort, focusing on smooth, controlled movements.

Benefits: Pelvic tilt exercise for back stiffness loosens up the muscles that might have gotten tight while you were sleeping. It also strengthens your stomach and back muscles, which can help your back feel better and more supported. Doing pelvic tilts can make your back feel less stiff and more flexible, so you can move around more easily and start your day without back pain.

You may also like: What should you not do with back pain?

4.  Child’s Pose

Kneel such that your entire lower leg is touching the floor and the top of your feet are on the ground. Bend forward, extend your arms in front of you, and rest your forehead on the floor.

Modifications: Place a pillow under your forehead or between your thighs and calves if the stretch is too intense.

Benefits: The child’s pose stretch for back stiffness provides relief for the lower back and has an overall calming effect, reducing stress.

5.  Knee-to-Chest Stretch

Lie on your back (preferably on a hard surface) and gently pull one knee toward your chest, holding it with both hands. Keep the other leg flat or bent at the knee. Switch legs after holding the stretch.

Modifications: If pulling the knee is challenging, use a towel around your thigh for assistance or have someone push it for you.

Benefits: The knee-to-chest stretch for the lower back relieves spinal nerve pressure and eases lower back pain, improving flexibility.

6.  Lower Back Rotational Stretch

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Gently roll both bent knees to one side, hold, and return to the centre before switching sides.

Modifications: Limit the range of motion if you feel any discomfort.

Benefits: The back rotational stretch for morning stiffness introduces slow and controlled movement in all directions early in the morning. This maintains flexibility and reduces discomfort, promoting a healthier spine.

7.  The Sphinx (Back Extension Stretch)

Lie on your stomach and prop your upper body up on your forearms. Keep your elbows under your shoulders and gently lift your chest, stretching your lower back.

Modifications: If the stretch is too intense, prop your body up on your elbows instead of your hands.

Benefits: Strengthens the spine, opens up the chest, reduces stiffness, and enhances posture, supporting back health.

Your Next Steps

Consistency is key to reaping the benefits of these stretches for morning back stiffness. Visit us at our clinics in Eltham, Battersea, Norbury, or Woolwich and surrounding areas so we can assess you properly and tailor the stretches.

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