Dr. Ronald G. Ritchie
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Lumbar Stretch and Flexibility Exercises

Lumbar Stretch and Flexibility Exercises


Do each of these exercises while sitting in an armless chair or on a couch. Perform these slowly and deliberately working to the maximum stretch you can achieve. The starting position for each of these stretches is sitting up straight, both feet on the floor and your arms relaxed at your sides. I will take 15 to 20 minutes to perform the full set of stretches.

  1. Same knee/shoulder – With both hands clasped together, reach down to hold the front of your right knee and pull it up flexing it toward your right shoulder. Pull your leg up as far as it will go without bending forward. Hold for a count of 5 and then let your knee down. Do the same with your left knee bringing it up to the left shoulder as far as you can, holding for a count of 5. Repeat this process 5 times with each knee, alternating between right and left leg.
  2. Opposite knee/shoulder – Cross your right ankle on top of your left knee while sitting. Clasp both hands together and reach down to your right knee pulling it towards your left shoulder. Lean forward and to the right trying to get your right knee and left shoulder as close as possible. Hold this position for a count of 5 and then relax going all the way to the starting position. Perform the same movement with the left leg pulling the left knee towards the right shoulder and leaning your right shoulder down and into your left knee. Hold this position for a count of 5 and then relax. Repeat this process alternating sides 5 times with each leg.
  3. Figure Four Stretch – Scoot to the front of the chair with your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Cross your right leg over your left with your right ankle on your left knee. With your right hand, push down on your right knee to stretch the inner right hip. Be certain to sit up straight and not lean forward. Hold the maximum stretch you can obtain for a count of 5. Switch legs crossing your left leg over your right and repeat this stretch 5 times on each side.
  4. Forward Flexion – Still sitting to the front of the chair, move your feet and knees apart leaning forward and reach down to touch the floor between your feet with your hands not moving your feet or legs. Hold this position for a count of 5 and then sit up to the starting position. Repeat this forward stretch 5 times SLOWLY pausing between repetitions.
  5. Seated Hamstring – Still sitting forward in the chair, straighten your legs straight out in front of you with your feet pointing straight up. Reach forward with both hands to touch your toes (it’s okay if you cannot, just try). Reach forward as far as you can. DO NOT BOUNCE! Hold this position for a count of 5 and then sit up to the start position. Repeat 5 times.
  6. Quadriceps Stretch – This will be performed either standing or lying on your side. Flex your hip bringing the knee up to the waist level. Flex your knee to bring your heal up to the buttock. Grab the front of your ankle and pull it up as close to your buttock as you can. Then extend your hip by straightening out your thigh bringing it down straight from your hip. You will feel a strong stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold this position for a count of 10 then relax. Repeat this 5 times for one leg and then turn to your other side performing it for the opposite leg. If you do this standing you will do it the same way but you will need to stand close to a chair or wall for balance. The standing procedure is more difficult than lying on your side so you will need to judge which is best for you initially.