Low back pain stinks. Let’s face it.
I’ve had a bad lower back, off and on, for over 20 years and it’s definitely no fun.
I’ve been able to keep my back healthy through a number of therapeutic exercises that I learned as an Occupational Therapist.
Today I would like to share the same lower back pain relief exercises that we, as rehab therapists, prescribe to our patients.
Before we begin with the exercises, let’s start with some basic (preliminary) information you need to have before you begin any lower back exercise or stretch.
Lower Back Pain Relief Exercises Work: When Done Correctly
To relieve lower back pain, whether it’s acute pain or long term pain, you need to approach the subject systematically.
Low back pain exercises can be thought in terms of a combination of these 4 activities…
- Stretching exercises
- Relaxation poses
- Core strengthening exercises
- Intermittent Use of Cold Packs
You’ll find that you will often times combine these exercises to complement one another. Getting a bit of trunk flexion in one exercise, then going to extension on the next.
There is actually 100’s of great exercises that you can do to decrease and eliminate low back pain.
The exercises below are perfect to start with and for those who need more help, we’ve got a spectacular recommendation (discussed below).
Start with Cold Therapy
Before you begin any lower back exercise program, make sure you eliminate the need for cold packs.
If you recently injured your lower back, then you need to use cold therapy for the next 24 to 48 hours.
If you have chronic lower back pain, consider a cold therapy session from time to time just to calm everything down.
I find that when I can’t get my lower back to relax, inevitably, I need to use cold therapy.
Therapeutic Breathing – Use It!
Breathing is your friend, it’s your weapon to deal with stress, anxiety, emotions, and… low back pain.
With breathing you can calm down that nervous system and let those tight muscles relax.
With every back pain relief exercise you perform, try to incorporate what is called the therapeutic breath.
It’s very similar to what’s practiced in Yoga.
It’s a slow inhale through the nose with a slow exhale out through the lips. The lips can be slightly pursed if you like.
I encourage you to take a minute to perform some relaxing deep breaths before you begin your exercises.
Find your breath.. 😉
You’ll find that movement and breathing go hand and hand. And by controlling your breath, you can improve your control over movement.
What’s that whole Lamaze breathing thing about, Right?
The point is, breathing is an important aspect in performing lower back pain relief exercises.
You can actually cause those tight little lower back muscles to stop spasming when you use this techniques in combination with the poses, stretches, and exercises.
Pain and Low Back Exercises
With back pain and exercise, you might experience some increased symptoms of pain.
You need to understand the difference between Good Pain and Bad Pain.
Bad pain is anything that radiates the pain away from the original pain source.
So if anything causes the pain in your lower back to shoot pain (or an electric feeling) down your legs – is a sign that you need to stop the stretch or exercise.
If the pain goes up drastically in severity, then you also want to back off from whatever you are doing.
Good Pain is pain that stays locally from where it originated.
When stretching areas that have been tight for a long time, you will find increased pain with some exercises, poses, and stretches.
If that pain diminishes and stays local over time, that’s a good thing.
That being said, lets get started with the exercises.
10 Lower Back Pain Relief Exercises – That Work
1. Put Your Feet Up & Relax
This first position is a place to find comfort. When your lower back is driving you crazy, you can always come to this position to find relief.
Position: Get on the ground and put your feet up on a chair, bed, couch or coffee table.
A therapy ball works great because it provides traction for the lower back and there’s some great exercises you can do with it as well.
In this position, focus on relaxing the lower back and start doing some slow-deep breaths.
You can progress this position to include some pelvic tilt exercises.
- Squeeze your butt muscles and hold the contraction for a few seconds, then relax.
- Slightly arching your back, hold it, then relax.
This is also an excellent position to put a cold pack when you’re lower back is recently injured or just needs a break.
2. Be the Ball..
Position: Lie on your back, bring your knees up into your chest, and grab your knees with your hands and arms. You might need to place your hands underneath your hamstrings to be able to curl up into a ball.
If that doesn’t work, use a band or belt to give you a little extra room to hold the pose.
Relax and focus on the breath. Let that lower back relax and just breath.
The Exercise: From here, you can rock slowly side to side, or up and down.
You’ll use your abdominal muscles to get you moving and this provides a gentle massage to the lower back.
3. Prone with Back Extensions
Position: Lie face down on the floor with your hands in front, inter-locked, and under you chin.
This is a great resting position to relieve lower back pain. Just focus on the breath and let your belly melt to the floor.
Think of your lower back relaxing and with each deep breath, let it relax into the ground.
Once you get it to where your back feels good and loose in this position, you can progress to the next stage in this exercise.
From laying face down, prop you arms up so your weight is resting on your elbows and forearms. Again, incorporate the deep breathing as you experience this slight back bend.
Next, if you feel up to the challenge, place your hands where your elbows are, and push up.
This is a deep back bend. Do not push this one if it does not feel comfortable, but try to work into it in the future.
You’ll find the tightness should decrease as you relax into the pose.
If the pain drastically increases, stop, it’s OK, try another day.
Again focus on the deep breathing while your lower back relaxes.
You can hold these poses for up to a few seconds to 3 to 4 minutes.
Find the right challenge for you.
The Exercise: Back Push-Ups – Do only after you’ve held the previous poses and feel loosened up!
2. Lie down on your stomach. Put your hands close to your chest (like a push-up position).
Push up as you did going into the prior stretch only this time make this the exercise.
Try to relax your lower back and do the push-ups just with your arms. Repeat for 10 – 20 reps.
It looks like this..
After this post, it’s great to transition to Exercise # 6. Downward Dog (listed below).
4. One Leg To Chest
Position: On your back, pull one knee up to your chest at a time, hold position for a 10 second count per leg.
From there you can gently pull your knee from the middle of the chest to the right and left, and get a hip stretch too .
5. Bridge Your Hips
Position: Laying down, bend both knees, and bring your feet close to your hips. From there lift your hips up in the air. Like this..
You’ll find as you practice this motion you can raise your hips up higher, even engaging your upper back muscles to increase the movement.
You can do bridges for repetitions or sustained holds. Try a mix of the two and even try holding the position till the muscles have to give up (Muscle Failure).
Remember, we’re trying to break that spastic muscle pattern that’s happening when you get low back pain.
Bridging can really help with this.
6. Downward Facing Dog
Down dog is an excellent position to maintain a nice (lower) back stretch while getting a solid hamstring and calf stretch.
Try bicycling in this pose, shifting from one calf muscle in extension with an inhale and exhale, then switch to the other side.
7. Side Leg Raises
Position: Lie on your side or up against a wall to help you get this motion of your leg if that helps you get to know the movement.
I like to feel my lower back muscles contract with my hand to get feedback that my lumbar muscles are contracting first, then the hip abductors kick in to raise your leg up into the air.
Try 10 – 20 reps. Switch sides
Position: Lie down on your belly.
Arch your back, pull your chest and shoulder off the ground and at the same time lift your feet off the ground.
Hold for a second or two, return to the floor. Try 10 – 20 reps.
I like to do Superman and Side Leg Raises together to get my back going in the morning. Check it out.
9. Cat And Cow!
This is really a great position to stretch the lower back and get it moving better.
Position: On all fours or a 4 point stance. Weight is in the hands and knees/feet.
Cow Movement: Extend your back, lift your head up, and raise your butt in the air.
Cat Movement: Engage your abdominal muscles, round the back, touch the chin, and pull those hips underneath you.
Both are great movements to explore. When you go back and forth between the positions, use the therapeutic breath to guide the movement.
10. Child’s Pose
Mostly a resting position, it’s a nice way to cool down with Child’s Pose.
As well, this is a Go-To Pose to counter any of the back extension exercises.
After you’ve relaxed in this position for a few deep breaths, you can extend your arms out and reach in front of your head to get a stretch through the sides of your back.
You can then place both hands to the right and stretching out to the right for a couple breaths.
Then go to the left and do the same thing.
Need More Advanced Help with Low Back Pain?
Thanks for reading our post and I really hope these exercises, stretches, and poses will make a major difference in your low back pain.
The key is consistently with the exercises on a daily basis and to get that pain under control, if not eliminated.
If you need more help fixing your back, but don’t have $100’s or $1,000’s of dollars to spend, I recommend you check out our favorite low back pain therapy tool. (Click the link to read our review)
I’ve been using this product for a couple of months now and it really is an amazing tool and a great value for under $50 dollars.
If you have any lower back pain relief exercises that you want to share, leave a comment below.