Tight hamstring muscles are a common contributor to lower back pain. The hamstring muscles run through the back of each thigh from the hip down to the back of the knee.
The following stretches can gradually lengthen and reduce tension in the hamstring muscle, and in turn reduce stress felt in the lower back.
Options for hamstring stretching exercises, listed from most difficult to least difficult, include:
- Standing Hamstring Stretch. While standing, bend forward at the waist with arms hanging down toward the ground and with legs straight, without locking the knees. Try to touch the toes but do not strain to do so. Stop bending forward when a slight pulling sensation is felt in the hamstring. This form of exercise is not always recommended as it may be difficult to do, and even exacerbate pain from a lumbar herniated disc, spondylolisthesis or other specific conditions.
- Chair Hamstring Stretch. Sitting on a chair, place one leg straight out on another chair in front of the body. Reach toward the toes and stretch one leg at a time.
- Towel Hamstring Stretch. While lying on the back, hold each end of a rolled-up towel and wrap it behind the foot. Then pull the leg up in front of the body to feel a slight stretch in the hamstring muscle.
- Wall Hamstring Stretch. Lie on the floor, with the buttocks against a wall and the legs stretched up against the wall. Try to push the knee as straight as possible. This stretch is usually gentle on the lower back, as it places minimal stress on the low back and the body is supported while lying down.
Hamstring stretches have been shown to be most effective when done for a duration of 30 to 60 seconds.1 Stretching should be done twice daily and on a regular basis. It can be easier to remember to do the stretches if they are incorporated into a daily routine, such as when getting up every morning and going to bed each night.