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8 Stretches to Decompress Spine (Beginner-Friendly)

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a woman is standing with her back to the camera, touching her lower back, spine decompression illustrated, stretches to decompress spine
David O'Connell post Reviewer David O'Connell post Reviewer
Verified by David O'Connell
Certified Active Isolated Stretching Therapist, Licensed Orthopedic Massage Therapist, Corrective Exercise Specialist

These 8 stretches to decompress the spine are the key to better back health whether you’re a beginner or advanced exerciser.

Table of Contents

These eight stretches to decompress the spine should be your go-to to improve your back health and relieve back pain. Whether you spend hours in the gym or are a beginner to exercise, these stretches are accessible to anyone seeking pain relief.

Below, we cover how spine compression occurs and how spinal decompression at home could help. These stretches alleviate back pain, improve posture, and increase the overall functionality of how you move. 

If you’re feeling tight, sitting for prolonged periods, or experiencing daily back pain, these should be your go-to best back decompression at-home exercises. You can also access our yoga app for more stretching exercise ideas.

What Is Spine Compression and Decompression?

Spine compression occurs when there’s increased pressure on the spine over time, which leads to neck and back pain, particularly in the lower back, and postural issues. [1]

When your muscles are strained or weak, they can become tight and shortened, but some research has shown that spinal decompression therapy could offer some relief. [2]

Although the overall evidence around spinal decompression is still developing, many people are now using spine decompression stretches and exercises to counteract the nasty side effects at the root cause. 

Spinal decompression alleviates pressure on the joints and nerves by creating space between the bones in the spine called vertebrae. It could help anyone suffering from pain from sciatica or bulging discs.

The most effective spinal decompression stretches will target the upper, mid, and lower back through various planes of motion (directions) to help release tension, release shortened muscles, and increase flexibility. Think cat-cow, spinal twists, or child’s pose — but we’ll get to that shortly. 

Benefits of Doing Stretches to Decompress Spine

The following stretches for spinal decompression target various muscle groups around the spine. The most effective exercises will help:

  • Create space between the vertebrae of the spine
  • Increase muscle flexibility around the spine
  • Strengthen muscles surrounding the spine 
  • Stretch and lengthen muscles
  • Improve mobility around the spine

You may also like: Yoga for Lats & Traps

8 Stretches to Decompress Spine at Home

These stretches for spinal decompression stretch and strengthen the hips, spine, shoulders, back, and surrounding spinal muscles, and help relieve tension and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system — a rest and repair state.

1. Cat-Cow

a woman is performing Cat-Cow Pose_stretches to decompress spine

Yoga for spinal decompression is well-practiced. The Cat-Cow stretch lengthens and mobilizes the spine and surrounding muscles that hug the spine, including the erector spinae. 

How to perform:

  • Start in a tabletop position — shoulders stacked over wrists and hips over knees
  • With a neutral spine, find length from your neck to your lower back
  • As you inhale, press your stomach toward the mat and lift your chin toward the ceiling
  • On your exhale, round your spine, tuck your pelvis toward your stomach, and push your upper back toward the ceiling
  • Ensure you contract your triceps muscles to extend and lock out your elbows to avoid elbow strain.
  • Repeat for 10-15 rounds

2. Puppy Pose

a woman is performing Puppy Pose_stretches to decompress spine

Opens the chest and stretches the arms, shoulders, stomach, spine, and midback, including the lats. Enjoy a deeper stretch by touching a block or elevated surface. Rest your head on the block for an easier option.

How to perform:

  • Start in a tabletop position
  • Slowly walk your hands to the top corners of your mat
  • Keep your hips stacked directly over your knees
  • Press the tops of your feet into the floor 
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat three rounds.

3. Supported Downfacing Dog

a man is performing

Stretches the chest, arms, shoulders, lats, upper, and midback. To modify, lower your elbows to the floor close to the bed for extra support. 

How to perform:

  • Lay on a stable bench or bed with a towel or cushion underneath your hips
  • Shuffle your hips to the end of the bed
  • Slowly walk your hands out as far as possible
  • Tuck your chin toward your chest until you feel a pull through the whole back
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds, and repeat three rounds.

You can also perform this stretch on a yoga inversion sling or yoga hammock.

a woman is performing Supported downfacing dog with a hammock_stretches to decompress spine

4. Supine Spinal Twist

a woman is performing Supine spinal twist_stretches to decompress spine

Spinal twists release tension in the thoracic spine, lower back, and hips and boost spine mobility. To modify, place a cushion underneath your knees. Extend one leg away from you for a deeper stretch and lift your top leg across the body.

How to perform:

  • Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet on the floor near your bum
  • Extend your arms on either side for support
  • Inhale and engage your core, then on the exhale, slowly lower both knees to the right
  • Press knees together and look over the left shoulder
  • Press your left shoulder down, chest parallel to the ceiling
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds, swap sides, and repeat 3 rounds.

5. Bar Hang

a man is performing bar hang_stretches to decompress spine

How to perform:

Stretches the lats, upper back, shoulders, and arms and releases tension in the back and spine. Practice for short periods of 5 to 20 seconds to begin with,  then build up to a longer hang and more intense stretch over a minute. You could start with a chair underneath your feet and practice hanging with one leg supported at a time.

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart
  • Grip a bar overhead with thumbs tucked 
  • Extend the arms fully
  • Lift your feet and hold the hang for as long as possible. Repeat 4-5 rounds.

6. Happy Baby Pose

a woman is performing Happy Baby pose_stretches to decompress spine

Stretches the inner thighs, hamstrings, groin, hips, and lower back and releases the spine. Practice with one leg first, then both. For progression, hold the insides or outsides of your feet.

How to perform:

  • Lie on your back
  • Inhale as you lift your knees to your chest
  • Link your fingers around your big toes
  • Exhale as you push both heels toward the ceiling 
  • Press your knees toward your armpits
  • Legs should be bent at 90 degrees with heels over the knees
  • Your lower back should be supported, and the spine neutral
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3 rounds.

7. Low Lunge

a woman is performing Low lunge_stretches to decompress spine

Low lunge is a great pose for hip flexor stretch that also targets the stomach, lower back, shoulders, and arms.

How to perform:

  • Step your left foot forward and kneel your right knee behind you in a low lunge
  • Keep hips square, then Inhale and lift both arms overhead, palms facing toward each other
  • Exhale as you slowly push your left knee forward, keeping the heel planted
  • Gently push your hips forward and lift your chest into a back bend
  • Look at your hands
  • Keep your lower back neutral and your spine tall

8. Overhead Side Stretch

a woman is performing Overhead side stretch_stretches to decompress spine

How to perform:

Stretches the sides of the body (the lats) and opens your chest, back, and shoulders. You can kneel, stand, or sit on a chair to do this.

  • Start standing with feet hip-width apart
  • Inhale and raise your left arm to the side into an overhead position
  • As you exhale, sweep the arm over your head and gently lean to the right side
  • Keep your hips parallel to the front of the room and your core engaged
  • Avoid leaning forward or backward
  • Hold for 10-20 seconds, swap sides, and repeat three rounds.

3 Main Reasons for Spinal Compression & Associated Pain

There are various reasons why someone might experience spinal compression and back pain. 

Poor Posture

If you work at a desk, you’re likely familiar with poor posture. Slouching, prolonged periods of sitting, and ill-equipt office equipment are all responsible for internal shoulder rotation — hunching forward.

When this happens, the pectoral muscles become tight and short, and your back muscles (like the rhomboids) become overstretched and weak. That means the muscles responsible for pulling your shoulders back and down aren’t doing their job correctly. At the same time, your hips flex for long periods, which causes tight hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings — all contributing to lower back pain. 

Prolonged Inactivity

Inactivity and lack of exercise contribute to back pain. Moving at regular,  times throughout the day helps strengthen the bones and muscles, improves blood flow and oxygen to muscles, and keeps you mobile. The WHO recommends at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity per week and at least 10,000 steps a day. [3]

If you don’t use it, you lose it. Inactive muscles become tight and weak, causing pain and increasing the risk of injury. 

You may also like: How Many Minutes of Exercise Per Week is Good?


This one’s for you, gym bunnies! High-intensity exercise, lack of recovery, and lifting heavy weights could all contribute to back pain. Now, that’s not to say don’t do it — just do it safely.

Strength training should be a component of everyone’s exercise regime at least twice weekly. It helps strengthen bones, muscles, and joints and improves back health and posture. But lack of core engagement, poor form in the gym, and lack of recovery all contribute to strain on the back. 

Contraindications For Spine Decompression

If you’re unsure whether or not to follow a program focusing on spinal decompression, especially if you want to practice these stretches to decompress the spine at home, always consult your physician first. 

If any of the following apply, don’t try this unsupervised without consulting a medical professional:

  • Spinal fractures
  • Joint diseases
  • Osteoporosis
  • Disc replacements
  • Pregnancy
  • Swelling in the spinal nerve roots 
  • Hypomobility
  • Undiagnosed joint pain

Haven’t found yourself on the list? That doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking with your doctor.

Wrapping Up

  • Spine compression can result from inactivity, strenuous exercise, and poor posture
  • Spine compression results in back pain in the neck and lower back
  • Spinal decompression stretches help release tight muscles, strengthen muscles surrounding the spine, and create space between vertebrae. 
  • Practicing decompression stretches regularly could help relieve back pain and decompress the spine. 
  • Do not practice spinal decompression exercises for back pain without consulting a medical professional if you suffer from a condition or are pregnant.

Need more? These 8 IT band yoga stretches could alleviate lower-body tightness, and for ways to strengthen your upper body, try this back and shoulder workout alongside stretching.

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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