A muscle strain is no laughing matter -- especially when it involves your lower back, or lat, muscles. The discomfort felt by a strain can easily keep you from enjoying your favorite activities to the fullest. And while you're sidelined with a sore back, you'll feel time and over-the-counter pain medication are your only friends. But thankfully, stretching exercises for the lats can get you back to living life to the fullest.
Cat and Cow Pose
Stretch the lat muscle using two yoga positions, Cat and Cow. Start the Cat pose on your hands and knees and relax your head. As you exhale, round your spine up. Then lower your back as you inhale. Follow the Cat pose with the Cow pose by staying on all fours. With your back flat, inhale and tighten your abs. Imagine a string tied to your bottom as you lift your glutes and chest skyward. Let your abs drop, but don't move your arms or legs. Return to a neutral position as you exhale. Repeat the Cat and Cow sequence, doing 10 to 20 of each.
Unilateral Supine Knee-To-Chest Stretch
The unilateral supine knee-to-chest stretch helps the flexibility in your lower and middle back. The more flexible you are, the less likely you are to strain your lats. To do a knee-to-chest stretch, start on your back with legs bent. Keep your left knee bent, foot flat on the floor, as you bring your right knee to your chest. Using your right hand to stabilize the knee, hold the leg in place for 15 to 30 seconds as you breathe deeply. Lower your right leg. Repeat with your left leg, and then do the stretch three to five times on each leg, alternating between legs.
Lying Spinal Rotation
Be careful when doing the lying spinal rotation. You should feel tension in your muscles when stretching; if you feel pain, ease out of the stretch. Remember to breathe throughout the lying spinal rotation stretch. Start this stretch by lying on the floor. Spread your arms out to the sides and your legs straight out in front of you. Exhaling, lift your right knee, bringing it to your chest. Then turn your neck to the left -- or in the opposite direction of your bent knee -- and take your knee and cross it over your lower body. Stay in this stretch for 30 seconds, and then repeat with the opposite leg.
Standing Forward Bend
The Standing Forward Bend is another yoga pose that stretches the lats. Stand with your feet a few inches apart for this move. Straighten your back and place your hands on your hips. Slowly lower your upper body, hinging at the hips, as you exhale. Prevent injuries by keeping your knees soft and turning your feet slightly out. Do try to keep your knees from bending, though. With each breath, imagine your spine lengthening. Stay in the Standing Forward Bend for 30 seconds to one minute.
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.