Relieve lower back pain with these eight exercises.
Physical therapy uses a combination of movement, massage, muscle stimulation, or hands-on care to ease discomfort and get you feeling like yourself again.
Physical Therapists (also known as PTs) are trained to create individualized plans that reduce pain and strengthen your body. Treatment plans can include exercises, stretches, and education on how to prevent pain and promote your long-term wellness.
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These eight common physical therapy exercises and stretches are a good starting point for addressing lower back pain. They’re designed to relieve tension in tight muscles and strengthen weak ones to restore needed balance in the body. Note, if you have concerns about your specific condition, it’s always best to chat with a PT directly.
Standing Ham Stretch | 3 reps per side
Back stiffness is often a result of tight hamstrings. This easy hamstring stretch lengthens your entire back body to relieve tightness and pain. If you have trouble balancing, feel free to hold onto a wall.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Flex your right foot and place it 6 inches in front of your left foot.
- Bend your left knee and reach down with your left arm to lift your right toes towards you. Keep your right knee as straight as possible and keep your hips square.
- Hold the stretch for 3 breaths, then switch sides.
- Repeat for 3 reps per side.
Rag Doll Forward Fold | 5 breaths
Let gravity help loosen up your spine with this easy inversion.
- Stand with your feet wider than hip width apart.
- Fold forward, keeping a slight bend in your knees. Cross your arms and grab onto your opposite elbows.
- Allow your head to hang freely. Stay here for 5 deep breaths.
Puppy Pose | 3 reps
Your lower back will feel longer and more open after a few breaths in this position.
- Start in an all-fours position.
- Walk your hands forward as far as you can while maintaining your hip position over your knees.
- Rest your head on the ground and stretch your arms forward.
- Take 5 full breaths, then rest for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Repeat puppy pose for a total of 3 times.
Bird Dog Extensions | 3 reps per side
This lower back strengthener is gentle yet effective. Your main focus should be to maintain balance and stability while moving with steady precision and flexing your back muscles.
- Start in all-fours.
- Lift your right arm in front of you as you simultaneously lift your left leg behind you.
- Hold the top position for a full exhale, then inhale as you lower.
- Switch sides, then continue alternating for a total of 3 times per side.
Dead Bug | 3 reps per side
This move strengthens the core, which is key to healing and preventing back pain. While this move may look easy, it’s quite challenging when performed properly. Make sure to engage your abs and focus on stabilizing while you move your limbs.
- Lie on your back and lift your knees up to 90 degrees.
- Lift your arms straight up, fingertips pointing to the ceiling.
- Lower your left leg down toward the ground as you simultaneously lower your right arm behind you.
- Alternate sides, exhaling with each lift.
- Repeat 3 times per side.
Lying Figure 4 | 3 reps per side
This move stretches out your glute muscles to provide relief for lower back pain. Try it after a long day of standing or sitting at a computer.
- Lie on your back and lift your knees up above your hips.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee to create a number 4 shape.
- Loop your hands around your left thigh and gently pull in towards your chest.
- As soon as you feel a stretch, stop and hold for 3 deep breaths.
- Switch sides. Then alternate back and forth for a total of 3 times per side. If it feels good, try holding a bit longer each time.
Lying Hip Twist Rotations | 3 reps per side
The back-and-forth motion in this gentle twist acts as a hip massage, chest opener, and spine twister all wrapped into one. It’s excellent for both stretching and strengthening your entire trunk.
- Lie on your back with knees lifted to a 90-degree angle.
- Gently place your fingertips behind your head and stretch your elbows to the sides to open your chest.
- Twist your hips to lower your knees far over to your right side, while keeping your elbows and shoulders on the ground.
- Engage your core to lift your knees back up to the middle.
- Twist your hips the opposite direction and lower your knees to the left to stretch the other side.
- Continue to alternate between right and left for a total of 3 reps per side.
Kneeling T-Spine Rotation | 3 reps per side
The T-Spine Rotation increases spine mobility and improves posture. Be sure to keep your hips stable during these rotations, if needed you can sit back onto your heels for more hip stability.
- Start in an all-fours position.
- Place your right fingertips lightly behind your head.
- With an inhale, lift your elbow up to the ceiling and rotate your core while keeping hips and legs stable. (Sit back onto your heels if you feel the rotation in your lower back, as it’s intended for middle spine).
- On the exhale, rotate the opposite direction and reach your elbow to the hand on the ground.
- Complete 2 more reps on the right, then switch and do the same on the left.
Each one of these exercises provides strengthening and stretching benefits to keep your back healthy and pain-free. If you feel pain during any of these exercises, stop and consult an in-person physical therapist to assess your specific situation.