The lower back really takes a beating on a day-to-day basis. Think about it: Every day you are putting your back through a lot of stress from sitting at a desk, lifting kids or working out. It's no wonder it gets a little cramped up from time to time. Stretching out your back definitely helps, but it's even more effective when you bring a foam roller into the mix. Instead of seeing a pricey masseuse, one tool can help roll the kinks out of your back so you feel less pain and are ready to support the weight of the world on your shoulders -- er, back.
Your psoas is a muscle that runs along the lower lumbar region of your back, flanking the spine and taking on a lot of pressure. If you want to give it a break, try laying on a foam roller so it's perpendicular to your body and then roll it down to sit just under your hips. Slowly raise your left leg, leaving your right leg straight on the floor to balance you. Hug your left leg to your chest, feeling the stretch on your left side. Hold for five seconds and release, repeating on your right side.
Your lower back and abdominal muscles work together in order to support your entire torso. Weak abs can affect lower back pain and vice versa, so use a crunch stretch to help stop pain. Place the foam roller under the middle of your back as you lie on a mat. The roller should run horizontally across your back. Bend your knees to a 45-degree angle and inhale as you engage your abs and roll upward, feeling a slight tug in the lower back area. Hold for three seconds and lower back down, repeating as necessary.
Sometimes releasing the pressure from your lower back is hands-down the best feeling in the world. If you've been on your feet for a long period of time, lay on a mat with the roller horizontally across you back. Use your feet to drag your body over the roller, starting with it across your shoulder blades and slowly bringing in down to the small of your back. The massaging action can help soothe away minor pains, while releasing compression that happens throughout the day.
Don't forget to stretch the areas on either side of your spine with a vertical stretch. This can also help to relieve pain in the upper back as well. Lie on the foam roller so that it runs along your spine. Dip the left side of your body to the mat as you peel your chest open and imagine that both sides of your body are flopping on either side of the roller. Hold for five seconds and then balance back on top of the roller, repeating by dropping your right side first.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.