Most of the time, back pain is caused by tightness and immobility in your hips, which can be relieved with hip mobility exercises.
Your hip joints help your torso stay stable and allow you to walk, run, skip and jump. If you sit too much, your hip joints become stiff and less mobile. This forces your lower back muscles to overcompensate, but the extra stress causes tightness and strain.
If you’re experiencing lower back pain, try exercises that move the hip joint in all directions to improve the mobility in your hips and relieve the stress from your lower back. (Related: Exercise is the best natural remedy for back pain.)
Leg swings (15 reps per side)
This dynamic exercise brings fresh blood into your hip sockets.
- Stand with your left hand resting on a wall or the back of a chair for stability. Put right hand on your hip then lift your right leg straight out in front of you.
- Inhale as you swing the straight leg down and back behind you.
- Exhale to swing the leg forward again, then repeat for 15 reps.
- Switch legs.
Leg circles (20 reps per side)
This dynamic exercise warms up the hip joint in all directions. Start with smaller circles, then work up to bigger ones.
- Stand with your left hand resting on a wall or chair, then put your right hand on your hip.
- Shift your weight into your left foot, then lift your straightened right leg.
- Circle the right leg clockwise for 10 reps, then circle it counter-clockwise for 10 reps.
- Switch legs.
Windshield wiper legs (20 reps)
This exercise brings fresh, oxygenated blood to your hip joints.
- Sit with your knees bent. Keep your feet on the floor a little bit wider than hip-width distance.
- Put your hands down behind you and lean back into your palms.
- Lower your knees to the right and lift them back up to the center, then lower them to the left.
- Continue “windshield wiping” side-to-side for 20 reps.
Squats (10 reps)
Squats improve the flexion and extension mobility of your hips.
- Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart and your toes pointing out at 45-degree angles. Reach your arms straight overhead, then engage your abs.
- Inhale as you bend your knees then sit your hips back and down to come into a squat. Lower your hips as close to the ground as possible.
- Exhale as you drive through your heels to stand all the way back up. Squeeze your glutes at the top, then press your hips forward.
- Repeat for 10 reps.
Reverse tabletop (10 reps)
Your hip flexors attach to the lumbar vertebrae in your lower back. When they’re tight, they pull on your spine, causing pain and discomfort.
Try this exercise to relieve that tightness.
- Sit with your knees bent and your feet on the floor hip-width distance apart.
- Put your palms down behind your hips, with your fingers pointing towards your heels.
- Press into your palms and feet, then lift your hips up to form a reverse tabletop. Engage your lower abs, then lift your hips up in line with your shoulders. Hold the pose, then slowly tap your hips back down.
- Repeat for 10 reps.
Alternating runner’s lunge (5 reps per side)
This exercise helps stretch out tight hip flexors that strain your lower back.
- Start in a high plank position. When you exhale, step your right foot outside of your right hand.
- With your abs engaged, lower your hips down and forward to feel a stretch through your hips.
- Inhale as you step your right foot back to meet your left, then switch sides.
- Alternate side-to-side, doing five reps per side.
Surfer squat (5 reps per side)
This stretch improves the lateral mobility of your hips.
- Stand with your feet wide, keeping your toes pointing out at 45-degree angles. Clasp your hands together in front of your chest, then engage your abs.
- Lunge into your right leg, sitting your butt back and keeping most of the weight in the heel. Lunge as low as you can as you keep a straight back.
- Exhale to stand back up to center, then switch sides.
- Alternate side-to-side and do five reps per side.
Supine figure 4 (30 seconds per side)
This relaxing stretch eases tightness in your outer hip muscles to help keep your lower back tension-free.
- Lie on your back and keep your knees bent with your feet on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh.
- Pick up your left foot and interlace your hands around your left thigh. Hug it in towards your body until you feel a stretch through the outer right hips.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Inverted figure 4 (30 seconds per side)
This stretch helps improve the internal rotation of your hip joint, releasing tension in your outer hip and hip flexors.
- Lie on your back, keeping your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Heel-toe both feet over to the right about one foot, then lower your knees to the left. Keep your right knee in line with your right hip.
- Cross your left ankle on top of your right outer thigh and flex both feet. Gently push up into your left ankle with your right thigh to keep the stretch active. If you feel any pain or pinching in your knees, skip this step.
- Reach your arms overhead, then grab opposite elbows with your hands. Relax for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Do these stretches regularly to relieve lower back pain and improve your hip mobility.