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Best Exercises for Lower Back Pain

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 19, 2020

Lower back pain is a common experience for many adults. It can often result in pain, tingling, and/or numbness in the lower body. There are many causes of lower back pain, the most common include muscle strain, poor posture, and age. 

There are two types of back pain: acute and chronic. Acute back pain lasts a few days or weeks. Most lower back pain is acute. Chronic back pain lasts longer than 12 weeks and is less common, but can have the same causes as acute back pain. 

There are preventative measures you can take to relieve episodes and prevent future pains. Stretching and focused back and abdominal strengthening exercises are two of the best ways to ease lower back pain. Strong abdominal and hip flexor muscles help improve posture, and strong glutes help support the back while walking, standing, and sitting. Having well stretched muscles helps improve your mobility.

Exercises to Help Lower Back Pain

The exercises below are meant to strengthen and improve flexibility in your muscles to support your lower back. Lower back pain may be recurring or a one-time experience. Doing these back strengthening exercises daily will ease lower back pain and prevent future episodes by strengthening your abdominal, hip, and back muscles. 

Knee to Chest Stretch

This stretch is an easy way to warm up for your workout.

●Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. 

●Step 2: Use both hands to pull one knee into your chest. 

●Step 3: Tighten your abdominals and press your spine to the floor. Hold for 5 seconds.

●Step 4:  Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. 

You can repeat this stretch 2 to 3 times in the morning and at night. 

Lower Back Rotational Stretch

This is another easy stretch to get your muscles ready to move.  

●Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

●Step 2: Keep your shoulders firmly on the floor, roll your bent knees to one side and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. 

●Step 3: Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.  

You can repeat this 2 to 3 times in the morning and night. 

Glute Bridges Exercise

This exercise aims to strengthen your glute and abdominal muscles.

●Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. 

●Step 2: Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed, tighten your abdomen and glutes, and raise your hips upward. Be careful to not overextend your back. 

●Step 3: Hold the position as long as you can, starting with 3 deep breaths. Then return to the starting position. 

Start by repeating this 5 times, then gradually build to 30 repetitions. 

Lower Back Flexibility Exercise

This exercise is a low intensity way to strengthen your lower back and abdominal muscles. 

●Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. 

●Step 2: Tighten your abdominal muscles so your stomach pulls away from your waistband. Hold for 5 seconds.

●Step 3: Relax and flatten your back, pulling your belly button toward the floor. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. 

Start by repeating this stretch 5 times and gradually build to 30 repetitions. 

Cat and Cow Stretch

This stretch will strengthen and alleviate the lower back muscles. Doing this exercise in the morning and night will help loosen your muscles.

●Step 1: Place your hands and knees on the floor, shoulder and hip width apart.

●Step 2: Slowly arch your back and pull your abdomen up toward the ceiling. 

●Step 3: Slowly let your back and abdomen relax toward the floor, pushing further by pulling your shoulders back and looking up toward the ceiling.

●Step 4: Return to the starting position and repeat. 

Repeat this exercise 3 to 5 times, twice a day. 

Seated Lower Back Rotational Stretch

When doing this exercise, be mindful to not twist too far in a way that will hurt your back.

●Step 1: Sit in an armless chair or stool. Cross your right leg over your left leg.

●Step 2: Brace your left elbow against the outside of your right knee, then twist and stretch to the side. Hold for 10 seconds. 

●Step 3: Repeat on the other side. 

You can repeat this 3 to 5 times on each side, twice a day.

Safety Considerations

These exercises are meant to relieve not cause more lower back pain, so be mindful when moving and stop immediately if you feel shooting pains. If you do experience lower back pain when exercising, once you begin again, gradually work your way up to the previous movements. Having weak back and abdominal muscles can worsen lower back pain.

Try to avoid movements that twist or strain your back. Remember to monitor your posture and reduce stress on your back muscles, and lift smartly using your legs and keeping your back straight. In addition to exercise and muscle strengthening, other preventative measures for lower back pain include maintaining a healthy weight and giving up smoking. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Harvard Health Publishing: “Stretching and strengthening are key to healing and preventing back pain.”

Mayo Clinic: “Back exercises.”

Mayo Clinic: “Back Pain.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Low Back Pain Fact Sheet.”

UHS Berkeley: “Low Back Pain.”

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