Exercises for Low Back Pain

Exercises for Low Back Pain can help to you feel better with less medication. But there are lots of options and theories floating around about what to do.  

The best exercises for low back pain depend on:

  • How bad is the pain?
  • Is the pain in the back, legs, or both?
  • When did it start?

Man grabbing his Low back due to new low back pain while getting in to his carLow Back Pain

Exercises for Quick Low Back Pain Relief

These exercises are good for most cases of new low back pain. Remember to start gently and gradually increase the movements with these exercises. 

Woman in a PT gym doing prone press ups on a mat table for low back painProne Press Ups

Lay face down and gently push up with your arms but keep your pelvis and legs on the floor or mat. Press up slowly and do not force through pain. Repeat this movement 10 to 20x 

If press ups are too painful or difficult, try it on your elbows first. (see below).

Woman is a PT gym doing prone on elbows exercises for low back painProne on Elbows

If you cannot lay down for this exercises, try it in a standing position and repeat 10 to 20x. 

Woman in a physical therapy gym dong standing extension exercises for low back pain when she cannot lay downStanding Extension

All 3 of these exercises for low back pain focus on extension of the lumbar spine. Extension can be very helpful to decrease low back pain from lumbar disk problems or herniated discs.  Extension exercises, also known as McKenzie Exercises, are not for everyone though.  If the pain increases or travels down the leg with extension exercises, stop immediately.

Stretching for Low Back Pain

Image of a woman stretching her left hamstring on a wall with label stating don't do this for low back pain

Stretching with lower back pain can make it worse if you are not careful. The most common example is hamstring stretches. Many people with low back pain also have Sciatica, or radiating pain in one of their legs. 

Sciatica can feel like hamstring tightness or pain. But stretching the hamstrings with sciatica can cause nerve irritation and make the pain worse. Extension exercises for the low back are typically the better option. 

Once the pain has decreased, light stretching can be helpful for the low back muscles. 

Here are some stretches that you can try at home. 

Stretches for Low Back Pain

Woman lying on a mat table performing knee to chest stretch for low back painKnee To Chest Stretch

Lay flat and pull one knee to the chest. Hold 30 seconds and repeat 3x.

Woman on a low mat table performing lower trunk rotation for lower back stretchingLower Trunk Rotation

Lay flat with knees bent. Rotate the knees and lower trunk side to side. Repeat 20x each side.

Lower Back stretching is should be done gently at first. If you have more pain with any of these exercises, stop immediately. These exercises can also help with stretching the Sciatic Nerve area.

Watch the Video Below to learn more lower back stretches for home.

Image of Video link for JOI Lower back stretches you can do at home video on youtubeClick to Watch Video

Core Exercises for Lower Back Pain

The "Core" is the focus of most exercises related to the low back. Most medical and fitness experts agree that a stable and strong core is important to protect your spine. But the true Core Muscles are not what you may think. 

Crunches and Sit ups ARE NOT true core exercises. That's because the muscles that you use with sit ups and crunches are large global movement muscles, not stabilizers. 

The main stabilizers of the Low Back and Core are the Transverse abdominal muscles. They wrap around your trunk. They work like a corset, holding in all your internal organs.  

This is how you work the true Core muscles.

Basic Core Exercises

1. Prone Transverse Abdominal Exercise

Lay face down and draw your belly button in toward you spine. You should also try to tighten the pelvic floor gently while you pull inward.  Hold 10 seconds and repeat 10x.  Use this exercise while performing all other core exercises. 

Woman is a red shirt laying face down doing prone transverse abdominal contractions.Prone Transverse Abdominal

2. Plank 

Support your body on your elbows and feet with the body held straight.  Hold and build up to 30 seconds 3x. Start on knees and elbows if needed to build up to a full plank. woman on mat table doing a plank core exercises on feet and elbows Plank

There are endless ways to work the core but this is a great place to start! Yoga and Pilates are also helpful for increasing core stability and strength.

Importance of Low Back Exercises

Low back exercises are really important because low back pain is really common. Dr. Robert Savarese of JOI explains that 4 out of 5 people will have lower back pain in their life. Low back pain is the 2nd highest reason for primary doctor visits in the United States and treatment costs billions of dollars per year. 

Exercises at home are one of the best ways prevent lower back pain and help if you do have pain. 


If you have back problems that are not improving with home treatment and exercises, the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute can help. Back Pain Can't Wait! To schedule and appointment with a JOI Orthopedic Spine Doctor, call (904)JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below.

To see a JOI Rehab Spine Physical Therapist at 1 of our 12 locations, call (904)858-7045.




Image of Ehren Allen, DPT, COMT and title Ehren Allen, DPT, COMT - Medical Content Writer


Skip to content