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How can I get a good stretch in my lower back?

Lower back pain is near-universal-in fact, according to a recent review, about 80 percent of people experience it at one point or another.

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play How can I get a good stretch in my lower back? (GETTY IMAGES)

There's nothing more satisfying than finding that ahhh-inducing stretch when you have a tight and achy back-and nothing more maddening than not being able to hit that spot.

Lower back pain is near-universal-in fact, according to a recent review, about 80 percent of people experience it at one point or another.

"Where the spine meets the pelvis is kind of a crash site," says Patrick Donovan, D.P.T., owner of Heather Lane Physical Therapy in Denver. When the hip flexor muscles are held in a sitting position, those muscle fibers start to shorten and get tight, pulling the pelvis forward and pushing the lower back out of alignment.

At the same time, spending hours hunched over a computer, phone, or steering wheel causes the muscles in the front of the body to shorten and tighten, too. Translation: weaker-and achier-back muscles.

You're probably getting the picture that the more time you spend sitting, the more likely you are to experience lower back pain, but it's not like you can just stop working a desk job or driving your car.

Being mindful of your posture and standing up regularly can help you prevent lower back...but what if you're already hurting? Stretches can definitely help.

A quick disclaimer: If you're experiencing extreme pain or pain that radiates down your leg, talk to a doctor or physical therapist to make sure there's nothing serious up-and do that before trying out the stretches below, says Donovan.

Forearm Cat-Cow Stretch

In this stretch, "instead of your hands on the ground, your forearms are on the ground, and that limits your mid-back from moving," says Donovan. "This really focuses in on that [lower back] mobility." It should look like this, but with forearms on the ground, rather than palms:

How to: Start on all fours, then lower your forearms to the ground and clasp your hands together. Set your gaze toward your hands and keep your neck in a neutral position. Just like a Cat-Cow Pose, push your lower back up to the ceiling into a modified Cat Pose. Push your hips back down to the floor so your back is arched into a modified Cow Pose. Flow between the two positions for 30 seconds, take a break, and repeat once more.

Hand-Heel Rock (Child's Pose to Upward Dog)

This stretch is like a two-for-one deal-it combines variations on two classic yoga poses that stretch out your back. "This exercise pushes the limits of your lumbar motion [or lower back], so only move your body within its pain-free range," he notes.

How to: Start on all fours, then lower your hips back to sit on your heels in a modified Child's Pose, with your arms reached out in front of you and your back slightly straighter than a regular Child's Pose. Hold for 1-2 seconds (or however long feels good), then move into Upward Dog (below).

How to: Come onto all fours. Keeping your arms straight, rock forward to drop your hips to the ground as your legs straighten out behind you into an Upward Dog stretch. Hold for 1-2 seconds (or however long feels good), then return to Child's Pose (above). Flow between the two positions for 30 seconds, take a break, and repeat once more.

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