Ease back pain in 5 minutes with this satisfying stretching routine

No equipment or expertise required for these back pain-easing stretches

people in child's pose
(Image credit: Monstera on Pexels)

Sitting down all day, driving too much, picking up something that's too heavy, general age-related weariness... there are plenty of reasons why your back might not be feeling its best. This 5-minute video walks you through a series of simple stretches you can do to to ease back pain, in real time, and without any equipment. It's designed to tackle general back pain or stiffness in your back, and has racked up 19K likes on YouTube, which is reassuring. 

While you don't need any specific equipment for this stretching routine, you might find it comfortable to lie on a mat – our best yoga mats guide has plenty of tried and tested recommendations – and perhaps stick a pillow under your head. Alternatively, you can do them lying on your bed if that's comfortable for you.

This sequence starts with a dog dressed as a unicorn, but don't let that put you off. The teacher, Jo of AskDoctorJo, is a physical therapist, so she knows what she's talking about (although, of course, for continued or significant pain you should consult your own doctor). As with any stretch, it should feel like a stretch but it should never be painful. 

Check out the routine below. If you're really tight on time and don't need the intro blurb, skip to 1.15 when the warmup begins.

Here's a quick run-through of the different stretches for back pain that are included in this routine. Each stretch is held for 30 seconds and repeated twice, with legs / arms alternated where relevant. 

  • Seated or reclined pelvic tilts – to warm up
  • Reclined knee to chest stretch – to ease tightness in hips
  • Reclined twists – trunk rotation to open up the back
  • Seated side stretch – to stretch and loosen up the QL (quadratus lumborum) area
  • Child's pose – stretches a little bit of everything
  • Cat-cow – to stretch the whole spine (don't hold these for 30 seconds) and relax the body

Five minutes is short enough to fit into pretty much any day, but if you have more time, you'll see more effective results if you take a little longer over this. Jo says the gold standard is to hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and do each three times. However, if you're short on time, you're best off still holding each stretch for 30 seconds, but lowering the number of reps.

There are some poses for lower back pain specifically here, or just check out this rejuvenating full-body stretch.

Ruth is currently on secondment as Sleep Editor for Tom's Guide and TechRadar. The role is an extension of her work on T3, where she ran the site's Wellness channel, which includes sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing. She was also Outdoors editor, reviewing and writing about everything from camping gear and hiking boots to mountain bikes, drones and paddle boards. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy, for fear of getting smothered in the night.