Exercises for low back pain

An illustrated exercise routine, including stretching.

These exercises for low back pain improve spine mobility and relax your muscles. They also help to stretch and balance key muscle groups that attach to the spine. To relieve back discomfort*, try these five exercises 2 times per day.

*Please note:  The exercises that follow can be very helpful. However, if you are injured it requires skilled assessment from a health care provider to determine which exercises and what types of treatment are appropriate for you. If you have an injury, medical condition, significant pain or constant pain, please see your doctor or health care provider and follow their instructions.

A helpful starting exercise is controlled, gentle spine movement with the Cat & Camel. First arch your back up toward the ceiling, like an angry cat. Increase the movement with a deep inhale. Then exhale, tighten (or brace) your abdominals, drop your chest toward the floor and lift your head slightly as shown.  Repeat this exercise 10 times.   Cat & Camel gently stretches the connective tissue around your nerve roots (nerve branches that come from the spinal cord). Practicing the cat-camel will help you learn good coordination for movements of your spine.

When your hips are too tight, the stress of body movement may be transferred to your lower back. Also, stiffness in these muscles often causes discomfort below the waist. 2 good reasons to include these stretches in your exercise routine!

The next 2 exercises for low back pain are stretches for your hip and gluteal muscles. Keep your tailbone (sacrum) on the floor for these stretches--this will focus the stretch where it’s needed most, in your hip muscles. Hold each stretch for 5 seconds and repeat 3 times.

Another key exercise is the kneeling lunge stretch. Focus the stretch in the front of your upper thigh by staying upright and keeping your hips even.  You may need to rotate the hip being stretched forward to make it even with the supporting hip.  Also, maintain abdominal tension so that your back doesn't excessively arch.  

Exercise #4 stretches the hip flexor muscles (iliopsoas), which attach between the front of the thigh and the lumbar vertebrae. When these muscles are too tight they can pull your spine out of proper alignment. 

Press ups can relieve lower back pain by stretching the abdominal muscles, relieving tightness that can pull the spine in a forward slumped position. Press ups also allow extra space for the discs to shift forward away from the nerve roots. (See the nerve roots above.) If you have difficulty sitting or bending over for long periods, the press up may relieve the tension or discomfort.

a) Rest on your forearms and then extend your back as shown, keeping your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine. Hold for 3 seconds, rest briefly, and repeat 5-10 times.

b) As exercise (a) becomes easier, you can press from your hands for a stronger stretch. To keep the stretch even through your spine, tighten your abdominals during the exercise.

Finish your exercises for low back pain routine by repeating exercise #1, the cat-camel stretch. Try these exercises for lower back pain 2-3 times per day. If your pain increases or will not go away, please see your doctor to find out what may be causing your problem.

Reminder: If you have significant pain, constant pain, or pain from an unknown cause, please see your doctor. The info on this page is intended to help prevent back problems. It is not a replacement for proper care from your doctor or other health care provider.

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Back stretching exercises                                 Relieve muscular tension and restore balance between the spine and hip muscles. As you improve your flexibility in key muscle groups, such as the hamstrings and abdominals, you will reduce the strain on your spine. This effective routine includes 7 illustrated stretches.

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Find out the source of most back problems (from current research), and also see how proper exercise is your best way to prevent back pain. Detailed anatomy diagrams of the spine, discs, nerve roots, and sacroiliac joints are included.


Correct Posture                                                               Find out whether you have good standing posture, and then correct it! Stretch out the muscles that affect your posture the most. Understand and master the safest core exercise methods with my original e-book!

Back & Hip Stretching Exercises                         2 convenient stretching routines for home and the office that target key muscle groups affecting your spine. The routines are based on exercises that have helped the author's physical therapy clients for years.  Illustrations compare correct and incorrect stretching technique. 

Return to physical therapy exercises.

Return from exercises for low back pain to home page: Why I exercise.

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