Lower back pain exercises are a great way to treat your pain and symptoms. They’re effective, free, simple and they don’t take up too much of your precious time. Our handy list of lower back stretches and exercises can also prevent your pain from recurring in future.
At West 1 Physio, we understand just how debilitating lower back pain can be – and how much it can stop you from living your life to the fullest. It’s best to get started with these exercises and stretches as soon as you can to prevent the problem from reoccurring. You can also find out more about lower back pain in our information page.
I’ve created a list of some exercises that will help you get moving again, safely and healthily. If you really want to see the best results, I recommend you combine these exercises with some gentle walking every day, and make sure you consult a physio or doctore before you begin. If you feel your back pain getting worse, please make sure you stop these exercises and consult a doctor or physio.
How often should I do these lower back exercises?
To begin with, I recommend doing these lower back exercises twice per day, three times if you can. It can feel like a big commitment, but they only take a few minutes. If you’re struggling to fit them in, why not try doing them when you first get out of bed and last thing at night?
When your pain gets better, you can drop the lower back stretches and exercises down to once a day.
The West 1 Physio lower back workout
Bridge is a great exercise for your lower back because it keeps your gluteus maximus (one of the muscles in your bottom) strong. This supports your lower back and takes some of the strain, and will hopefully have you back on your feet in no time.
To perform a bridge:
- Lie on your back with bent knees, your feet flat on the floor and hip width apart.
- Press your feet into the floor evenly, and keep your arms by your sides.
- Lift your bum off the ground. Make sure your body is in a straight line, from your shoulders to your knees.
- Squeeze your bottom together and make sure your shoulders stay on the floor. Press evenly into both sides of your body, feet and shoulders. Hold this for a couple of seconds.
- Slowly and gently lower your bum to the ground – this is a great way to make your muscles work for longer. Then rest for a few seconds.
- Repeat the exercise around 15 times and then rest for a full minute.
- Repeat this for three sets, so you’re doing three sets of 15 bridges.
2. Pelvic floor
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help you keep a good posture, which should get rid of a lot of aches, pains and niggles around the body. Good posture takes a lot of the stress away from your lower back and means you’re working the right muscles when you’re walking, sitting or standing. Plus, it makes you look good and feel more confident.
To exercise your pelvic floor:
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Keep your arms by your side.
- Take a deep breath in.
- As you breathe out, pull your bellybutton in towards your spine. You’ll feel your stomach muscles tighten. Make sure you keep your hips still.
- Hold this for 5 seconds.
- Breathe out again and relax for 5 seconds.
- Repeat the exercise 5 times.
I highly recommend this exercise to strengthen your lower back muscles. Keeping them strong helps you keep a good posture, and it takes the strain off your spine – making your muscles do all the work.
To do a superman
- Lie face down on the floor and stretch both of your arms in front of your body. Keep your legs stretched out, and on the ground.
- Raise your hands and feet at the same time. You should try to lift them around 6 inches from the floor. You should also try to pull your bellybutton up towards your spine. This will engage your stomach muscles and give your whole body a good workout. Make sure you avoid neck injuries by looking at the floor while you do this.
- Hold this for 2 seconds.
- Relax back down to the ground for another 2 seconds.
- Repeat 10 times.
Stretches for lower back pain
4. Lower back rotational stretches
This gentle stretch will help relax your lower back, relieve tension and should help you see a bit of pain relief straight away. It’ll also build up some stability and a stronger core – perfect for taking some of the pressure off your back.
To perform a lower back rotational stretch
- Lie on your back, bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground. Spread your arms out wide to the side.
- Keeping your shoulders on the floor and in the same position, gently roll both of your knees to one side. Make sure you keep your knees bent.
- Hold this position for 5–10 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch.
- Slowly relax back to the starting position on your back.
- Roll your bent knees over to the opposite side, hold for another 5-10 seconds, and then relax back to the position you started in.
- Repeat this exercise 3 times on each side.
5. Knee to chest stretches
Knee to chest stretches help to lengthen out your back. This reduces the tension, which in turn gives you a bit of pain relief.
How to do knee to chest stretches:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Gently clasp both hands just below your knee, and pull your knee inwards, towards your chest.
- Hold this position, with your knee against your chest (or as close as you can get), for 10 seconds. Make sure your spine is pressed flat against the floor.
- Slowly relax back into the starting position.
- Repeat 2–3 times on each leg.
6. Cat-cow stretches
Cat-cow stretches, also known as Chakravakasana in yoga, are a great way to elongate your back, reduce pain and relieve some of the tension.
How to do a cat-cow stretch for your lower back:
- Begin on all fours. Make sure your back is as flat as possible and your wrists are in a straight line with your elbows and your shoulders. Your knees should be directly underneath your hips. Look down and out to keep your spine straight. (If you’re new to this, try to position yourself so you can check your back looks flat in a mirror).
- Tuck your toes underneath your feet, look up and stick your tailbone up towards the ceiling. Keep your abdominal muscles tight, but drop your stomach down towards the ground.
- Return your feet to their original position, tip your pelvis forward and round your spine upwards, tucking in your tailbone. Drop your head down and look towards your bellybutton.
- Repeat this 5 times.