As someone who prides herself on the level of strength and flexibility achieved as a result of my 7+ year yoga practice, I was both shocked and dismayed to wake up with extreme lower back pain last month. When I say extreme, it’s no exaggeration! It literally took every ounce of energy I had just to stand up, sit down or straighten my back in any capacity. By the second day, it was so bad that I could not stand upright without using a wall for support, feeling like my knees were going to buckle if I moved away from it. The pain was excruciating and debilitating.
As much as I love making meals in my Dutch oven, I am convinced that this awesome (but heavy!) invention was the source of my mysterious lower back pain. I tend to do things in a rush and failed to take the time to properly bend my knees while lifting it in and out of the oven. Well, I certainly paid the price.
At the onset of the agony, my first instinct was to stretch my lower back out through gentle yoga postures. But after reading conflicting advice online, I eventually decided against it. So many articles tell you not to stretch or you will actually make the problem worse. This went against my better judgment, but I followed the misguided advice and instead spent the first two days in bed reading on my Kindle and feeling sorry for myself. After the first 48 hours in bed, the pain worsened. I once again did a Google search and read that I should not lay down either – apparently laying down also makes lower back pain worse.
What’s a girl to do when she can’t stand up straight, sit up, lie down or do yoga? I was at a loss.
By the end of the third day, I got to a point where I stopped taking the advice of 50% of the articles I read (because the other half tell you stretch AND lay down), and I followed my initial instinct, which has rarely led me down the wrong road. I rolled out my yoga mat and proceeded to stretch out my lower back.
And let me tell you, it hurt like hell. But it was the smartest move I had made in days. Not only was I able to stand up straight after just 20 minutes of light stretching, I was able to walk around and sit comfortably again for the first time since the pain began.
Really, is there anything that yoga can’t heal?
My tried and tested advice on how to heal lower back pain is this: stretch the moment you wake up (using the simple postures below) and then repeat the same stretches again before you lay down for the night.
As far as bed rest is concerned, my experience taught me that yes, lounging in bed isn’t exactly the best remedy. Even though resting feels great, as you lay, the muscles in your back are not being used and as a result, they begin to tighten up. But we all have to sleep at some point, so bedtime is a necessary evil. When it is time to call it a night, my advice is to either lay on your side in a fetal position or lay on your back with a couple of pillows to support your head.
During the daytime, I found that either sitting up with my back supported or simply walking around made a huge difference.
The light yoga stretches below will not completely heal you right away. They should be repeated twice a day over the course of several days. But in my experience, they will provide you with notable relief immediately. For me, finally being able to stand up straight without relying on a wall was a huge improvement. By the fourth day, I was on the mend. It still took a couple of weeks for the kinks to work themselves out, but thanks to my light yoga practice, my lower back pain is now completely gone.
Once your lower back does heal 100% (which may take a few weeks depending on how bad your injury is), don’t forget what helped you to get to a place of comfort! Continue to stretch everyday so that you have a better chance of preventing future injuries. And if you are anything like me and addicted to your Dutch oven, bend your knees when lifting it (or any other heavy objects)!
1. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with the feet hips distance apart. On an inhale, sweep both arms up to the sky, and then slowly dive down into a standing forward fold. Make sure to fold forward from the hips; not from the waist! Grab the back of your calves to pull yourself deeper into the pose. Feel the lower back release and the hamstrings lengthen as you focus on putting more weight into the toes vs. the heels. Hold this pose for 1-2 full minutes. The longer the better!
2. Cobblers Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Start by sitting on the mat with the soles of your feet together. Grab your toes and begin to bend forward (from the hips) until a point where it is comfortable enough to hold for 1-2 full minutes. You also have the option of stretching your arms out in front of you and crawling your fingertips forward to release the back even more.
3. Double Seated Pigeon (Dwapada Rajakapotasana)
Start in a cross legged seated position. Start by placing the right foot directly on top of the left knee and the left foot directly underneath the right knee. Hinge from your hips and crawl your fingertips forward until you reach a place where you can comfortably hold the posture for 1-2 minutes.
4. Reclined Leg Stretch (Supta Padangusthasana)
Start by laying down on the mat with your knees hugged into your chest. Then, strap up one foot at a time and extend the leg into the air while resting the other leg along the ground with the toes pointing up toward the sky. Make sure that you are feeling this one more in the hamstring than the shoulders, back or neck. Hold for 1-2 minutes on each side.
5. Childs Pose (Balasana)
Separate the knees so that are in line with the width of the mat, with the big toes touching. On an exhale, slowly fold the torso in between the legs and stretch the arms out in front of you. Rest your forehead on the mat. As you settle into the pose, continue to work on getting the butt closer to the heels. Slowly work on inching the fingertips forward to release the tension in the lower back. Hold for 1-2 minutes.