How Exercise Helps Lower Back Pain
Moving is good for your back. Exercises for lower back pain can strengthen back, stomach, and leg muscles. These muscles help support your spine, relieving back pain.
The Best Exercises for Fighting Lower Back Pain
- Lie on your back and bend one knee. Loop a towel under the ball of your foot. Straighten your knee and slowly pull back on the towel. You should feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Do 2 to 4 times for each leg.
- Lie with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross arms over your chest or put hands behind your neck. Tighten stomach muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor. Breathe out as you raise your shoulders. Don't lead with your elbows or use arms to pull your neck off the floor. Hold for a second and then slowly lower back down. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Press-up Back Extensions
- Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Push with your hands so your shoulders begin to lift off the floor. If it's comfortable, put your elbows on the floor directly under your shoulders and hold this position for several seconds.
- Stand 10 to 12 inches from the wall and lean back until your back is flat against the wall. Slowly slide down until your knees are slightly bent, pressing your lower back into the wall. Hold for a count of 10 and then carefully slide back up the wall. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
- Start on your hands and knees, and tighten your stomach muscles. Lift and extend one leg behind you. Keep hips level. Hold for at least 5 seconds, and then switch to the other leg. Repeat 8 to 12 times for each leg. For an added benefit, try lifting and extending your opposite arm on each repetition.
- Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Tighten your stomach by pulling in and imagining your belly button moving toward your spine. You’ll feel your back pressing into the floor, and your hips and pelvis rocking back. Hold for 10 seconds while breathing in and out smoothly. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
- Lie on your back with knees bent and just your heels on the floor. Push your heels into the floor, squeeze your buttocks, and lift your hips off the floor until shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight line. Hold about 6 seconds, and then slowly lower hips to the floor and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Knee to Chest
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring one knee to your chest, keeping the other foot flat on the floor. Keep your lower back pressed to the floor, and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Then lower your knee and repeat with the other leg. Do this 2 to 4 times for each leg.
- Pilates combines stretching, strengthening, and core abdominal exercises. Under the instruction of an experienced teacher, it may help some people with lower back pain. Be sure to tell your teacher about your lower back pain, because you may need to skip some moves.
- Done properly, lifting weights doesn't usually hurt your lower back. In fact, it may help relieve chronic lower back pain. But when you have acute (sudden) back pain, putting extra stress on back muscles and ligaments could raise risk of further injury. Ask your doctor whether you should lift weights, and which exercises to avoid.
- Aerobic exercise strengthens your lungs, heart, and blood vessels and can help you lose weight. Walking, swimming, and biking may all help reduce lower back pain. Start with short sessions and build up over time. If your lower back is hurting, try swimming, where the water supports your body. Avoid any strokes that twist your body.
Exercises to Avoid for Fighting Lower Back Pain
Exercise is good for low back pain — but not all exercises are beneficial. Some exercises may aggravate the lower back pain.
- Standing toe touches, for example, put greater stress on the disks and ligaments in your spine. They can also overstretch lower back muscles and hamstrings.
- Although you might think sit-ups can strengthen your core or abdominal muscles, most people tend to use muscles in the hips when doing sit-ups. Sit-ups may also put a lot of pressure on the discs in your spine.
- Leg lifts are sometimes suggested as an exercise to "strengthen your core" or abdominal muscles. But lifting both legs together while lying on your back can make back pain worse. Instead, try lying on your back with your right leg straight and left leg bent at the knee.
Bottom Line on Fighting Lower Back Pain with Exercising
Even though exercise has its many benefits in fighting lower back pain, you still need to always ask your doctor before doing any exercise for back pain. Find out how to further develop treatments, stretches, and therapies for lower back pains by earning a healthcare management degree online. Depending on the cause and intensity of your lower back pain, some exercises may not be recommended and can be harmful.