Legs, Hip & Low Back Stretches

Your hips and legs are the powerhouses of the body and form the foundation on which the spine and upper body sit. Having strong, flexible legs is key to allowing the rest of your spine to function normally. Remember that we tend to have one leg more dominant than the other and can therefore be stronger or weaker depending on your individual situation.

And hey! Let’s be honest, the hardest stretches to do are the ones you need to do the most. 

Let’s stretch!!

HIP FLEXORS

The muscles in the front of your hip and pelvis are critical to function but can seriously contribute to lower back pain when they’re tight or out of balance. Believe it or not, these muscles partially attach to your spine! When they’re tight, they can pull the spine forward, putting pressure on the nerves and vertebrae in your lower back.

Helps with: Hip pain, lower back pain, groin pain, knee pain.

DETAILS:

When doing this stretch, put a pillow under your knee, keep your spine perpendicular to the floor and sink into the stretch until you feel it in the front of the hip. Don’t push too far here. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times. Do this stretch on both sides. A tip is to do this beside a chair or in between two chairs. This way, you can use the chairs for support and allow the muscles to completely relax.

QUADS – Front of the Leg

The front of your leg does a tremendous amount of work. We also spend a lot of time sitting or driving. It gets really tight as a result. What most people don’t realize is that some of these muscles cross the knee, inserting below the knee and housing the knee cap or patella. Many knee issues can be helped or even prevented by doing these stretches.

Helps with:  hip pain, lower back pain, groin pain, knee pain, knee cap issues.

DETAILS:

It can sometimes be difficult to grab your foot or ankle, especially when you are in pain, but do your best. Keep your knee pointing toward the ground and try and keep your spine straight.

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times. Do this stretch on both sides. This can also be done laying on your side, or by putting your foot on the edge of a chair or couch and simply sitting down on your foot. Give it a try and find the way that works best for you.

Remember to never stretch in pain.

HAMSTRING – Back of the Leg

Your hamstring and glutes are the powerhouses of your lower body. They’re the ones that carry you up the stairs and do the heavy lifting when needed. The hamstring is another muscle that crosses the knee and can contribute greatly to knee issues. We spend so much time sitting that there can be some serious imbalances in these muscles. Stretching them helps remove those imbalances and keeps the lower body working properly. The sciatic nerve travels through the glutes and hamstrings on its way to the foot so these muscles can compress the sciatic nerve causing leg, knee and ankle problems.

Helps with:  normal walking gait, hip pain, lower back pain, sciatica, knee pain, calf and foot pain, plantar fasciitis.

DETAILS:

Go as far as you can without pain for this stretch. Grab your toe if you can, or slide your hand down the front of your leg as you do this. It’s ok if you can’t go all the way. That’s exactly why you’re doing this stretch. By grabbing the toe, you’re also stretching the calf muscle on the back of the lower leg and keeping your ankle joint flexible.

NOTE: If you’re pressed for time or space, you can put your foot up on a step, a chair or anything high enough to get a stretch and go for it.

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times. Do this stretch on both sides.

Remember to never stretch in pain.

CALVES-Back of Lower Leg

Your calf muscles are some of the strongest in your body. They’re also some of the most elastic. This means that it can take a while before your calf muscles respond and actually lengthen. Think of the toughest piece of dough you’ve ever made a pizza or a pie out of. The ankle is a poor lever so the calf needs to be VERY strong. Every time you take a step, your calf muscle springs into action and stabilizes your ankle AND your knee at the same time.

Helps with:  knee pain, ankle pain, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, lower back pain, gait issues, bunions.

DETAILS:

With a shoe on, put your toe on the wall with your heel resting on the floor. Keep your leg straight and just lean in toward the wall.

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times. Do this stretch on both sides.  Remember to never stretch in pain.

NOTE: A modification is to turn your foot 20degrees inward to stretch the inside of the calf, and then 20degrees outward to stretch the outside. Try it. You might notice one side is tighter than the other.

GLUTE/HIP –

Because we sit so much, the glutes can get really tight. This stretch isolates parts of the glutes and hip rotators to help keep your hip and pelvis flexible and healthy.

Helps with:  normal walking gait, hip pain, lower back pain, sciatica, knee pain, calf and foot pain.

DETAILS:

In a sitting position, put your ankle on your opposite knee. If you can’t get to this point, place your ankle somewhere along your lower leg and then use a tea towel or exercise band to pull your ankle higher towards your knee. Don’t worry, you’ll get better at this.

There are THREE positions: With your ankle on your opposite knee,

  1. press your knee down toward the floor. You should feel this in the front of your hip.
  2. pull your knee toward your opposite shoulder (the side with the ankle on the knee)
  3. lean your upper body forward toward the floor. You should feel this in the lower back and glutes.

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times. Do this stretch on both sides.

Remember to never stretch in pain.

GLUTE/HIP – PIGEON

For some, this is going to be a challenge. However, it is also one of the most effective stretches to prevent sciatica and help with lower back pain and hip flexibility.

Helps with:  normal walking gait, hip pain, lower back pain, sciatica, knee pain, foot alignment.

DETAILS:

Carefully get your leg in front of you at 90 degrees. Lean forward as far as you can while feeling a moderate stretch in your hip. Please don’t push too hard here. Let your body relax into the position and you’ll go much farther. Remember to breathe. For some, it’ll be easier to be able to lie flat out on the floor. For others, not so much. Don’t worry. Either way, you’re doing a great job and you’re really helping your spine be more flexible and more functional.

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 2 more times. Do this stretch on both sides.

Remember to never stretch in pain.

Child’s Pose

This standard yoga pose is amazing for your lower back, but also for your pelvis, mid back, and even shoulders. It’s a relaxation position in yoga but we can use it to help stretch a ton of tired and sore muscles. For some, this is a “go to” stretch to target multiple areas at one time.

Helps with:  lower back pain, sciatica, hip pain, upper back tension/pain, shoulder flexibility, stress, anxiety, abdominal stretching.

DETAILS:

Try and stretch out in front of you as much as you feel comfortable. If you can, rest your head on the floor. You can use a small pillow if you can’t reach the floor. Just relax and hold the position, and you’ll be stretching so many good parts of your body.

Hold for 20-30 seconds. Do as many times as you like.  Remember to never stretch in pain.

NOTE: To better isolate the upper back, while keeping your hands on the floor, bend your upper body, without twisting, to either side. This is a fantastic way of stretching your mid to lower back. .

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