Reduce Stress, Anxiety and Lower Back Pain with this 5 Minute Mobility Flow!

As social distancing and a general lack of activity continues, anyone that normally suffers from chronic lower back pain will most likely wind up feeling even worse than usual. Being confined at home will likely result in you assuming a seated position more than your accustomed- especially if your normal routine involves an active job or lifestyle. While being seated (which naturally tightens your hips anyway) you are also more than likely on a laptop, tablet or your phone- each of these devices puts you in an anatomical position where your shoulders are rounded. In addition to the tightness we are creating from inactivity, many are also suffering from extremely high levels of stress and anxiety due to the health crisis. When we’re stressed, our natural human reaction is to put our head in our hands. Again, resulting in hunched shoulders and furthering the thoracic tightness. A tight upper back combined with tight hips (hip flexors, adductors and glutes) will inevitably lead to lower back pain ranging from mild to severe.

How to Fight Lower Back Pain and Simultaneously Reduce Stress & Anxiety

A lot of people make the mistake of training the lower back directly (with exercises such as back extensions or cobras), thinking “my back hurts because it’s weak.” While that may be partially true, it is almost never the root of the issue, and shouldn’t be where you start.

The main problem is hip/glute and thoracic tightness. Therefore, before anything else is focused on, MOBILIZING is the first key!

5 Minute Mobility Flow

The first several exercises are done in a quadruped position- meaning on your hands and knees. When you are in this basic position always be sure your shoulders are directly over top your hands. As well as your hips should be directly over top your knees. Be sure to keep your back flat and most of the time keep your neck relaxed (look towards the ground) unless the exercise calls for different.

When performing this series of stretches, I perform each for 20-30 seconds and transition from one exercise right to the next. This series one time through should take between 3-5 minutes. Since we’re in state where we’re working out at home exclusively, you can repeat this circuit for 3-5 rounds for a great “active rest day” workout.

  • Hip Circles
Hip Circles: The key with this exercise is only experiencing movement at the hip. When we have tight hips, the tendency is to compensate by moving the entire back to get a nice hip circle. Instead work within your current range of motion without compromising your back position. For simplicity, just focus to start on shooting your leg back up and around into a nice big circle. Then once you’re comfortable with that movement pattern, you can perform repetitions in the opposite direction as well.
  • Cat/Cows
Cat/Cows- This is a Yoga move that can greatly benefit a stiff back. The goal with a Cat/Cow is controlled spinal movement. When you look down towards the ground you want to arch your back up towards the ceiling, then when you look towards the ceiling you want your spine to move back to a neutral position. Achieving spinal flexibility is important to improving back pain because the spine is hardly ever moved through a range of motion. The stiffer your spine is, combined with a tight thoracic is going to wind up keeping pressure on the lumbar spine.
  • Fire Hydrants
Fire Hydrants- The same concept used with Hip Circles applies to Fire Hydrants. Movement should only occur at the hip, avoiding any sort of back compensation. Work within your range of motion and seek to improve your hip mobility gradually- it’s not going to happen all at once!
  • Hip Rolls
Hip Rolls- Keep both knees on the ground the entire time as you lean from one side to the other. Give each side a solid 2 second hold before you switch. Everyone’s different as well- some can feel a fantastic glute stretch by leaning straight to the side, others have to sink back towards their heels a little to “feel” a glute stretch. Whatever you need to do, find your sweet spot that you feel a great stretch right on the outside of the hips. This is unequivocally one of my favorite stretches.
  • Hockey Stretch
Hockey Stretch- This is basically an active Deep Child’s Pose. The way you assume your positioning is to spread your knees out wider than hip width, then sink your butt all the way back as far as you can with the goal being to get your butt in between your heels. Bring your finger tips out in front as far as possible to lengthen your back out. Perform for about a 3-5 second hold then rock forward as far as you can, and transition right back into your deep hockey stretch. You should feel a great stretch in your groins the entire time.
  • Pigeons w/ T-Spine Ext.
Pigeons w/ T-Spine Ext- Bring your knee into your chest and slide your foot through to the opposite side of your body. Start by holding that low position and really sinking into the glute of the leg that’s pulled to your chest. Then, put your opposite hand to the leg that’s at your chest behind your head and perform T-Spine Extensions. To perform these, hold your glute stretch at the bottom still for two seconds, then open up (think about opening with the shoulder blade more so than just the elbow) and follow your elbows with your eyes. Keep the tempo steady and never wrench your back to gain added mobility.
  • Half Kneeling Adductor Stretch
1/2 Kneeling Adductor Stretch- This is another active stretch where you hold each position for about 2 seconds. The goal is to rock your butt all the way back to your heel, while keeping the opposite leg out straight with your toe almost perfectly straight ahead. After a 2 second hold down, simply rock it off and lose the tension, then go back into another 2 second hold.
  • Spider Stretch w/ Thoracic Flow ** (This is the absolute best stretch you’ll ever do- shout out to Head Sports Performance Coach at Washington College, Jonnie Jenkins, for teaching it to me when I was a student-athlete almost 10 years ago now!)

Assume a push-up position, then bring one foot up to your hand. Hold the elbow to instep position , striving to get your chest as low to the ground as you can. Then open up with the elbow that’s down, following your hand with your eyes, feeling your entire back open up. Then send your hand all the way through your opposite side. And finally, plant your hand outside your lead foot, and drive yourself up, striving for both legs to be straight with the front toe off the ground. (Hold each of the stretch positions for 2-5 seconds before moving through the flow) Repeat for 3-5 more reps before you switch sides. 

Final Thoughts

This entire mobility flow is something I’ve come up with and should be done in the exact order it’s been presented. It’s super easy to transition from one exercise right to the other, and if done on a consistent basis, you will begin to notice improvements in your back discomfort.

If you suffer from chronic back pain or you’re feeling generally stressed and full of anxiety, I highly encourage you to try this mobility routine- you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel afterwards!

Yours in Fitness and Health,


Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

2 thoughts on “Reduce Stress, Anxiety and Lower Back Pain with this 5 Minute Mobility Flow!

  1. Thanks Tyler. I am going a bit crazy not being able to workout (and I am not that good at self motivation). This flow may be just the thing to jump start my home practice and help ease tight hips/hammies.
    I hope all is well with you and Elizabeth and baby ????


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