Exercise for Low back Pain

Regular exercises to restore the strength of your back and a gradual return to everyday activities are important for your full recovery.

Exercise 10 to 30 minutes a day 1 to 3 times a day during your early recovery

Exercise and Acute or Subacute Back Pain

Exercise does not help acute back pain. In fact, overexertion may cause further harm. Beginning after 4 - 8 weeks of pain, however, a rehabilitation program may benefit the patient.

Patients should avoid exercises that put the lower back under pressure until the back muscles are well toned. Such exercises include leg lifts done in a facedown position, straight leg sit-ups, and leg curls using exercise equipment.


Ankle Pumps

Lie on your back.

Move ankles up and down.

Repeat 10 times.

Heel Slides

Lie on your back.

Slowly bend and straighten knee.

Repeat 10 times.

Abdominal Contraction

Lie on your back with knees bent and hands resting below ribs.

Tighten abdominal muscles to squeeze ribs down toward back.

Be sure not to hold breath.

Hold 5 seconds, then relax and repeat 10 times.

Wall Squats

Stand with back leaning against wall.

Walk feet 12 inches in front of body.

Keep abdominal muscles tight while slowly bending both knees 45 degrees.

Hold 5 seconds.

Slowly return to upright position.

Repeat 10 times.

Heel Raises

Stand with weight even on both feet.

Slowly raise heels up and down.

Repeat 10 times.

Straight Leg Raises

Lie on your back with one leg straight and one knee bent.

Tighten abdominal muscles to stabilize low back.

Slowly lift leg straight up about 6 to 12 inches and hold 1 to 5 seconds.

Lower leg slowly.

Repeat 10 times.


Single Knee to Chest Stretch

Lie on your back with both knees bent.

Hold thigh behind knee and bring one knee up to chest.

Hold 20 seconds.


Repeat 5 times on each side.

Hamstring Stretch

Lie on your back with legs bent.

Hold one thigh behind knee.

Slowly straighten knee until a stretch is felt in back of thigh.

Hold 20 seconds.


Repeat 5 times on each side.

NOTE: Be careful not to arch your low back!


Hip Flexor Stretch

Lie on your back near edge of bed, holding knees to chest.

Slowly lower one leg down, keeping knee bent, until a stretch is felt across top of the hip/thigh.

Hold 20 seconds.


Repeat 5 times on each side.

Piriformis Stretch

Lie on back with both knees bent.

Cross one leg on top of the other.

Pull opposite knee to chest until a stretch is felt in the buttock/hip area.

Hold 20 seconds.


Repeat 5 times each side.


Perform the following exercises at least three times a week:

Partial Sit-ups: Partial sit-ups or crunches strengthen the abdominal muscles.

Keep the knees bent and the lower back flat on the floor while raising the shoulders up 3 - 6 inches.

Exhale on the way up, and inhale on the way down.

Perform this exercise slowly 8 - 10 times with the arms across the chest.

Pelvic Tilt: The pelvic tilt alleviates tight or fatigued lower back muscles.

Lie on the back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Tighten the buttocks and abdomen so that they tip up slightly.

Press the lower back to the floor, hold for one second, and then relax.

Be sure to breathe evenly.

Pelvic Bridge: This exercise helps strengthen the muscles of your lower back.

Begin by lying down on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor.

Cross both of your arms across your chest while simultaneously tightening the muscles of your abdomen.

Use a slow and controlled motion to lift your hips off the floor until there is a straight line between your knees, hips and shoulders.

Hold this position for five to seven seconds, then return to the starting position using a slow and controlled motion.

Repeat 10 times a day.

Over time increase this exercise until it is held for 5 seconds. Then, extend the legs a little more so that the feet are further away from the body and try it again.

While tightening the abdominal muscles. The back should be straight. Alternate with the other arm and leg and repeat on each side 8 - 20 times.


Hip Roll

Lie on back with both knees bent.and the soles of your feet flat on the floor.

Use the force of gravity to let both knees fall toward your left while continuing to look toward the right.

Be sure to use only the force of gravity to pull your knees toward the ground.

Hold 10 seconds.

Repeat 10 times on both sides.

Double Knee to Chest: This exercise improves the range of motion in your lower back by decompressing your spine.

Begin by lying down on your back with both legs extended and your arms by your sides.

Bend both knees at the same time and lift your feet off the floor.

Reach up with both arms and grab your legs around the shins.

Use the muscles of your arms to pull both knees toward your chest.

Hold this stretch for five to 10 seconds.

Perform three sets of five to 10 repetitions daily.

Exercises For Low back Pain
PDF • 101KB

Note: No one with low back pain should perform exercises that require bending over right after getting up in the morning. At that time, the disks are more fluid-filled and more vulnerable to pressure from this movement.

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