14 Effective Physiotherapy Exercises for Lower Back Pain

Low back discomfort is one of the most common reasons people seek medical help. Low back pain affects everyone at some point in their lives. Some of them will need to see a doctor. In addition, if a severe pathology causes pain, some people will need surgery. On the other hand, some can take care of it independently with physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain.

The term “low back discomfort” is a bit of a misnomer. Depending on the cause of the discomfort, the definition of low back pain varies. S. Kinkade defines common back discomfort as pain that arises posteriorly between the lower rib edge and the proximal or upper thighs.

1. The Culprits of Lower Back Pain

Several reasons can precipitate back pain in a person.

  • Occupation
  • A Sedentary Lifestyle

1.1. Occupation

If your employment requires you to lift or drag something heavy, or if you have a desk job that requires you to hunch and be uncomfortable in your chair, you are at a high risk of getting lower back pain.

  • A heavy luggage

1.2. A Sedentary Lifestyle

If you happen to carry an overstuffed bag, it can strain your lower back and cause pain.

  • Excessive workout.
  • Sprain or strain.
  • A poor posture.
  • A muscle pull.
  • Obesity.
  • Pathological conditions

Spinal stenosis, Intervertebral disc prolapse, Ankylosing spondylitis, Arthritis, Spondylolisthesis, and so many others can be the reason for back pain.

physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain
By Wavebreakmedia/ UnlimPhotos Copyrights 2020

2. How Does Lower Back Pain Occur?

Pain, as the name implies, is the most typical presenting feature. It may vary from a stabbing pain (if the origin of the pain is from muscles or other structures) to sharp shooting pain (if the source of the pain is from nerve or nerve endings).

A Burning pain or numbness traveling from the lower back to the back of the thighs in case of nerve compression like Sciatica.

There can be muscle spasms, inflammation, and tightness.

3. Types of Lower Back Pain

The 2 common types of LBP are:

3.1. Mechanical Pain

Pain that originates primarily from the joints, muscles, and ligaments falls in this category.

3.2. Radicular Pain

If the pain is caused by inflammation or impingement of the nerve root, it is classified as Radicular pain.

Also, LBP can be acute, sub-acute, and chronic. Acute pain is an episode of LBP 1that occurred recently for less than 6 weeks. Sub-acute pain is pain lasting for 6-12 weeks and more than 12 weeks is chronic pain.

We may therefore infer that the lower back, also known as the lumbar spine, is a powerful connectivity of bones, nerves, ligaments, and muscles, as we’ve seen above. All of these structures interact to create stability, flexibility, and strength.

This sophisticated structure, however, is highly vulnerable to injury and discomfort. The pain in the lower back can be terrible and excruciating.

As a result, unlike medications, which only provide temporary comfort, pain alleviation should be lasting. Only physical therapy can help you obtain long-term relief from this harrowing situation.

The physical therapist will first assess and then set up an exercise program. Also, the therapist will explain to you the entire regime in easy words and a written form with pictures, making it easy for you to perform these at home.

4. Physiotherapy Exercises for Lower Back Pain

4.1. The Cobra Stretch

Lie on your stomach or prone. Both hands should be on either side of your chest. As you push your upper body from your chest to your head, your feet should be firm on the floor, and your hands should be pressed to the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds before lowering yourself slowly.

It strengthens the spine, alleviating discomfort and aiding in the relief of sciatica. It is one of the best physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain.

physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain
Source-By Wavebreakmedia/ Unlim photos Copyrights 2020

4.2. Prone Leg Lifts

To perform this exercise, lie on your stomach with both legs extended and both arms by your side. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged while gently tightening your core muscles. Breathe normally. Your abs must be engaged, and your knee must be straight.

Then slowly raise your right leg towards the ceiling. Your thighs must be lifted from the ground by straightening your knees. Hold your leg straight up in the air for several seconds, then slowly lower it to the floor.

The physical therapists will encourage you to execute it with alternate leg raises. This is one of the most effective physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain.

Prone Leg Lift

4.3. Cat and Cow Pose

Kneel on the ground and place your hands in front of you. Maintain a shoulder-width stance with your hands and keep your knees directly beneath your hips. Inhale deeply while lifting your head and curving your lower back, tilting your pelvis up like a “cow.” Exhale deeply and inhale deeply while arching your spine and lowering your head and pelvis like a “cat.” Repeat the process numerous(around 10) times.

This is one of the practical physiotherapy exercises2 for lower back pain.

How to Do a Cat Cow Pose for Energy | Yoga

4.4. Child’s Pose

Start with kneeling and sitting on your knees. Lean forward and put your forehead on the floor, keeping your buttocks on your heels. Position your arms next to your legs, palms facing up. Slowly and deeply inhale and exhale for at least eight breaths or hold this pose for about 30 seconds.

You can repeat this about 5 times.

In yoga, this pose is termed Balasana or Shishuasana.

physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain
Source-By Elenaphotos21/ Unlim photos Copyrights 2020

4.5. Side or Trunk Twists

Lie down on your back with your arms by your sides. Your arms should be stretched out. Turn your body in the opposite direction while bending your knees to one side. On the other side, repeat the wringing action.

This exercise is helpful if you have pain in the lower back and side back.

Supine Trunk Twist Stretch

4.6. Single-Leg Stretches

Try resting on your back with one leg straight and the other leg bent at the knee. Keep the lower back on the floor, flat. Raise the straight leg slowly and hold for a few seconds. Slowly lower the leg. Repeat a few times on each leg and switch legs.

4.7. Bird-Dog Stretch

The bird dog is a fundamental core exercise that increases stability, promotes a neutral spine, and alleviates low back discomfort. It strengthens the back, core, and hip muscles. It also improves the range of motion and encourages appropriate posture.

Begin in the tabletop posture on all fours. Place your hands exactly under your shoulders and your knees exactly beneath your hips. Engage your abdominal muscles to keep your spine in a neutral position.

Keep your shoulders and hips parallel and raise your right arm and left leg off the ground. To glance down at the floor, lengthen the back of your neck, and bury your chin into your chest. Hold this position for a few seconds before lowering yourself back to your starting position. Raise your left arm and right leg to shoulder height and hold for a few seconds.

Return to your original starting position and repeat a few times. It is one of the most effective physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain.

physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain
Source- By Kzenon/ Unlim photos Copyrights 2020

4.8.Press-Up Bridges

Lie on your back. Press your heels into the mat, squeeze your buttocks, and lift your pelvis 3off the floor until your body forms a single straight line from chin to knee, with your shoulders resting on the mat. Inhale. Gently lower your pelvis and return to the starting position. Repeat.

Bridge Exercise for Spine Health

4.9. Knee Chest Stretch 

It is one of the best physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain.

Lie down on your back, legs extended, and back straight. Maintain a level posture with your hips and lower back on the floor.

Place your hands on your right leg with your right knee bent, hugging it to your chest. Then take a deep breath and hold it Press-Up for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax and return the knee to the beginning position before repeating on the opposite side.

Single Knee to Chest Exercise

4.10. Partial Crunches

Lie on your back, keep your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor. Please put your hands behind your neck or cross them over your chest. Raise your shoulders above the ground and tighten your core muscles. As you raise your shoulders, exhale.

Hence, this exercise relieves pain and is one of the best physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain.

Partial Crunch

4.11. Pelvic Tilts

Lie down on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, and arms at your sides. Your lower back will be lifted slightly off the floor because of the natural curvature of your spine. Stabilize your core by gently arching your lower back and pushing your tummy out. Relax after 5–10 seconds of holding.

How to do a pelvic tilt lying down

While tightening your buttock muscles and tucking in your belly button, lift your pelvis slightly toward the ceiling (your pelvis should not leave the floor). You should feel your lower back pressing against the floor as you do so. Relax after 5–10 seconds of holding.

4.12. Hip Stretches Help Relieve Lower Back Pain

Repeat hip stretches 8-12 times on each side. Unlike its name, this is one of the best physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain.

4.13. Press Up Back Extensions

Lie down on your stomach, face down. Under your shoulders, tuck your elbows into your sides. Raise your upper back by pressing your elbows onto the floor. Relax your stomach muscles and allow your back to arch without using your back muscles as you do this.

As you arch up, let your lowerPress-up back relax completely. Allow your hips and pelvis to remain on the floor. Hold the position for a few seconds. Then take a deep breath and return to the starting posture. Repeat 2–4 times more.

How to Properly Perform Press Up Back Extensions

4.14. Wall Sit-Ups

Lean back on the wall until your back touches it, standing 10 to 12 inches from the wall. Slowly lower yourself until your knees are bent slightly, and your lower back is pressed against the wall. Hold for 10 seconds before sliding back up the wall. Be careful and repeat 8–12 times more.

This is one of the best physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain.

Wall Sit

Proper stretching along with exercises will help you provide relief from pain symptoms.

5. Things to Note for Exercises Learned

All of these exercises serve to relieve low back pain, are simple to perform, and can be done at home because no special equipment is required. These exercises develop your back muscles and the muscles in your abdomen, hips, and buttocks that surround them. This not only soothes pain but also helps prevent injury.

These back exercises improve blood flow to the area, reducing stiffness and loosening tight muscles and hence, pain. They also help maintain a normal range of motion.

If these or any other exercises cause more pain in your lower back, see a doctor immediately and seek professional medical advice. In the same way, if exercising does not relieve your pain, you need to see one of the best orthopedic surgeons, as the condition may require surgery.

Apart from exercising, other factors help provide mild to moderate pain relief.

These include:

  • Making use of ice. Ice causes vasoconstriction initially. This numbs that area and reduces pain. Vasoconstriction is followed by vasodilation. Here, the blood vessels widen and there is increased blood and oxygen supply and removal of waste from that area. Later there are alternate periods of vasoconstriction and dilation.
  • Avoiding activities and positions aggravating low back pain. As it is very well said- Prevention is better than cure! Also remember, if you perform the exercises incorrectly, your pain may increase. So, learn them well from your therapist.
  • Stay active.
  • Take over-the-counter painkiller medications.

Swimming can be very effective. Water supports the body and eliminates gravity which helps the patients to carry out the exercise program efficiently. You can also try aerobic exercises.

But, merely taking medications during acute lower back pain will relieve it for the time being and lead to chronicity. It would be best if you exercised daily to maintain good spine health. Hence, physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain hold the utmost importance.

Read more from us here.

Click here to read about “Benefits of Heel Touches” and “Cat-Cow Yoga Pose Health Benefits”.

Reviewed by: Omejua Godswill Chimdike (B.MLS), Biomedical Scientist (UNN)

About Omejua Chimdike .G.

A talented, knowledgeable, and certified medical laboratory scientist with experience in carrying out standard laboratory practices (tests) on patients of various cultural backgrounds with the aim of researching and developing diagnostic approaches that will aid in the diagnosis of diseases and increase patient outcomes to treatment. Currently, working as a research scientist at Everight Diagnostic Laboratory Services Limited (Centre for Research and Molecular Studies), Nigeria.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chimdike-omejua-520859199

WordPress: https://omejuachimdikeacademia.wordpress.com/

Gmail: chimdike.omejua.188155@unn.edu.ng

  1. Karanwal, Shekhar, and Manoj Diwakar. “OD-LBP: Orthogonal difference-local binary pattern for Face Recognition.” Digital Signal Processing 110 (2021): 102948. ↩︎
  2. Bouça‐Machado, Raquel, et al. “Physical activity, exercise, and physiotherapy in Parkinson’s disease: defining the concepts.” Movement disorders clinical practice 7.1 (2020): 7-15. ↩︎
  3. Pavličev, Mihaela, Roberto Romero, and Philipp Mitteroecker. “Evolution of the human pelvis and obstructed labor: new explanations of an old obstetrical dilemma.” American journal of obstetrics and gynecology 222.1 (2020): 3-16. ↩︎

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