Low Back Pain Exercises

By Sally Ann Quirke, Chartered Physiotherapist | Filed under: Lower Back Pain, Exercises for Back Pain


Low back pain exercises
Teaching low back pain exercises

“What is the best exercise regime for Low back Pain?”

This is a topic that we discuss with pretty much all patients with low back pain in my physiotherapy clinic.

Although you can learn a little from reading about yoga and pilates exercises for lower back pain, it is important to be aware that lower back pain frequently requires a professional assessment first to ensure the exercises you select are actually of benefit to your condition - and will not causing further harm.

That is why in this article I have chosen to talk about the types of exercises you can do for lower back pain rather than provide specific examples.

Discover the cause before you exercise

So my first bit of advice if you suffer from lower back pain and are seeking exercise, is to first learn and understand the concepts behind exercises for pain management, and if you haven’t already, seek a professional therapist suitable in helping you diagnose the cause of your low back pain. Only then are you are in the best position to select a suitable treatment program, either through exercises and other means of treating lower back pain.

Exercises for Lower back pain -

So, let’s have a look at the various types of exercises that are used to help back pain. Over the years, my experience has led me to divide low back pain exercises into the following three general types:

  • Mobility Exercises,
  • Directional Exercises
  • Strength exercises.

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Let’s have a look at each one in turn:

1. Mobility exercises.

Mobility exercises basically involve moving all your body parts, in all directions that do not cause pain. An example of this type would be an exercises where a patient, under the supervision of a physiotherapist, lies on their back, with knees together and raised, moves them gently from side to side.

Mobility exercises are valuable, because they will help to achieve a balance between rest and movement when you have an episode of lower back pain, which is important. You must frequently move all your body parts that do not hurt from the outset. Failure to do this may result in complications resulting from immobility - which can prolong your rehabilitation further. Try not to spend days in your bed with lower back pain unless suggested by a medical practitioner who is familiar with lower back pain. Instead, keep moving where you can, but make sure that you never move or exercise into pain.

2. Directional exercises.

Directional Exercises - when performed correctly - will help ease your pain and eventually resolve your episode of lower back pain. The direction of your exercise will be dictated by the direction of your injury and pain.

A good example is if you injured or strained your lower back when bending over to lift a heavy box or object. After this episode you will probably have pain in your lower back when bending forwards, as it stretches or places stress on the injured structure on your back. To help ease this pain you may benefit from lying on your tummy or arching your back backwards with or without support. This directional movement can help unload the injured soft tissue or joint and help it to heal in a non-stressed position.

3. Strength Exercises.

Back strengthening exercises are required to re-strengthen a previously injured muscle, or to strengthen muscles or a muscle group around an injured structure such as a disc. These exercises will be typically prescribed by a Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist in the United States), following a correct diagnosis of the cause of the lower back pain. I also use strength exercises help improve people’s postural habits (see posture exercises) thereby reducing the risk of a repeat or reoccurrence of their back pain.

Why Postural Exercises are important for Lower Back Pain

I have rarely, if ever, seen a lower back pain patient who already has a strong good posture! Strength exercises for good posture start with having an understanding and awareness of good posture (see posture analysis).

Again, there are many causes of lower back pain that require specific or a tailored exercise regimes. In these cases, an expert, such as a Chartered Physiotherapist are best positioned to provide invaluable advice and a tailored exercise program which will lead to the long term management and treatment of your back pain - so if in doubt, seek a specialist out!

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Useful Links on Exercises for Lower Back Pain.

If you would like some further detail on exercises for lower back pain, then here are a couple of suggestions (these open in a new window):


While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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