Strengthen Your Back

Strengthen Your Back

Some back exercises can help ease pain. But others can hurt. Confirm with your doctor or physical therapist that you can do back exercises. Then, do them each day or as recommended. Note whether your pain improves.

Conditions: Back pain

Symptoms: pain, sharp pain, numbness, tingling, difficulty sleeping, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatments:

Categories: exercise

Duration

14

Ease Into Exercise

Stretching can relax muscles and help ease back spasms. But don't try to exercise while you're actually having a spasm. Try deep, slow breathing when a spasm strikes. Wait for spasms to subside. Then slowly start stretching your muscles.

Prompt: Got back spasms?

CTA: Learn when not to exercise.

Conditions: Back pain

Symptoms: pain, sharp pain, shocking pain, numbness, tingling, difficulty sleeping, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers: heavy lifting, pushing or pulling, repetitive motions, twisting, overdoing it, sitting too long, standing too long, using machinery, vibration

Treatments: exercise, rest

Categories: exercise

Build Core Strength

Your core muscles include your abdominals and other muscles in the trunk of your body. Strong abs and back muscles work together to reduce low back strain. If these muscles are weak, other areas of your body must pick up the slack.

Prompt: How is your core?

CTA: Build core strength.

Conditions: Back pain

Symptoms: pain, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatments: exercise, muscle strengthening

Categories: exercise

Partial Crunch 101

Partial crunches are safer than sit-ups for building strength in your stomach.

Lie down on a mat. Bend your knees. Keep your feet flat on the floor, and put your arms out in front of you.

Tighten your stomach muscles and "reach up" trying to "grab" your knees, exhaling as you do. Hold for a second. Slowly lower back down. Repeat 8-12 times.

Prompt: Crunching correctly?

CTA: Say no to traditional sit-ups.

Conditions: back pain

Symptoms: pain, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatments: exercise, muscle strengthening

Categories: exercise

Hamstring Stretch

Check with your physical therapist if you're having back pain before stretching hamstrings.  Sometimes they are tight to protect your back. Lie on your back with one knee bent. Loop a towel under the ball of that foot. Straighten your knee as you slowly pull back on the towel. Feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times for each leg.

Prompt: Hams tight?

CTA: Your hamstrings deserve a stretch.

Conditions: back pain

Symptoms: pain, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatments: exercise, muscle strengthening

Categories: exercise

How to Do Leg Lifts

Don't lift both legs together if you have back pain. Instead, lift 1 leg at a time. Lie on your back with one leg straight and the other leg bent at the knee. Tighten stomach then slowly lift the straight leg up about 6 inches. Hold 5 seconds. Lower your leg slowly. Repeat this 10 times. Switch legs and repeat. If you feel stress in your back tighten your stomach more as you lift the leg.  NOTE:  This is not an easy exercise, especially if your back pain is acute. Proceed with caution or risk aggravating your symptoms.

Prompt: The right leg lifts.

CTA: Learn to do leg lifts safely.

Conditions: back pain

Symptoms: pain, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatment: exercise, muscle strengthening

Categories: exercise

Try the Wall Sit

To ease your back pain, stand 10 to 12 inches from the wall with your back on the wall. Tighten your stomach so your lower back is flat on wall and slide down bending your knees.  Hold 5 to10 seconds and straighten back up. Repeat 8 to12 times.  You should not feel any pain in your knees or back. 

Prompt: Be a wallflower.

CTA: Let the wall help your back.

Conditions: back pain

Symptoms: pain, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatments:

Categories: exercise

Extend Your Back

Extending and arching your back is a helpful stretch. Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Next, push with your hands so your shoulders start to lift off the floor, keeping your pelvis and hips on the floor. Hold 5 seconds then lower back to the floor.  Repeat 10 times.  If comfortable, prop on your elbows with your pelvis and hips on the floor, relaxing up to 30 seconds.

Prompt: Extend your back.

CTA: Press your back into service.

Conditions: back pain

Symptoms: pain, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatments: exercise, muscle strengthening

Categories: exercise

Be a Bird Dog

Mimic the way bird dogs point to prey. It's a good way to strengthen your back. Begin on your hands and knees. Next, tighten your stomach muscles. Lift and extend one leg behind you while keeping your hips level. Hold this for 5 seconds. Repeat 8 to 12 times. Switch to the other leg. Repeat 8 to 12 times. For the full effect, lift and extend the opposite arm with each repetition.

Prompt: Be a bird dog.

CTA: Try this soothing move.

Conditions: back pain

Symptoms: pain, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatments: exercise, muscle strengthening

Categories: exercise

Knees to Your Chest

Lie on your back. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Pull one knee up to your chest as you keep the other foot flat on the floor. Keep your lower back pressed to the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Lower your knee. Repeat 3 times then switch legs.

Prompt: Knees to your chest.

CTA: Ease back pain.

Conditions: back pain

Symptoms: pain, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatments: exercise, muscle strengthening

Categories: exercise

Do a Pelvic Tilt

Lie on your back, with knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Next, tighten your stomach as if you're preparing to take a punch. Your back will press into the floor and your hips and pelvis will rock back. Hold this position for 5 seconds as you breathe in and out smoothly. Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Prompt: Pelvic rescue.

CTA: Pelvic tilts for back pain.

Conditions: back pain

Symptoms: pain, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatments: exercise, muscle strengthening

Categories: exercise

How to Do the Bridge

Lie on your back, knees bent. Push your heels into the floor. Squeeze your buttocks and lift your hips off the floor. Continue until your hips and knees are in a straight line. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly lower hips to the floor. Repeat 8 to 12 times. Don't arch your lower back.

Prompt: A bridge from pain.

CTA: Makea bridge to ease pain.

Conditions: back pain

Symptoms: pain, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatments: exercise, muscle strengthening

Categories: exercise

How to Be Flexible

Becoming more flexible can reduce tension and tightness that can cause back pain. You want to put an equal load throughout your body, from feet to head. Sit on the edge of the bed with one leg extended on the bed and the other foot on the floor. Gently lean forward. This stretches your hamstrings in the back of the thigh. Switch legs. Repeat.

Prompt: Are you flexible?

CTA: How to boost flexibility.

Conditions: back pain

Symptoms: pain, weakness, stiffness, aching, burning, muscle pain, pain when standing, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain

Triggers:

Treatments: exercise, muscle strengthening

Categories: exercise

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Ross Brakeville, DPT on September 29, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports: "Questionable Exercises."

American Council on Exercise: "Glute Bridge" and "Bird Dog."

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Low Back Pain Exercise Guide."

Kell, R. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, March 2009.

La Touche, R. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, October 2008.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Handout on Health: Back Pain."

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