Lower back pain relief with 6 physical therapy exercises

Lower back pain is the most common physical complaint seen by physical therapists. Lower back pain can have several causes.

However, 95% of all low back pain complaints are non-specific. It means that no structure can be identified that is causing the back pain. In 5%, there is specific low back pain. The cause of this can be made clear with a scan.

Both non-specific and specific low back pain can often be treated well with several physical therapy stretches and exercises.

I will explain to you what the different causes of lower back pain can be and how you can treat them yourself with stretches and strength exercises. Not every exercise is right for every cause of back pain. That is why I describe based on the symptoms what the most likely cause of your lower back pain is and which exercises you should and should not do.

So let’s get started quickly:

1. The cause of lower back pain
2. Lower back pain symptoms
3. Lower back pain treatment with 6 exercises

Lower back pain relief with 6 physical therapy exercises

The cause of lower back pain

Five vertebrae, called the lumbar vertebrae, together form your lower back. A layer of cartilage covers the vertebrae. Between the vertebrae is an intervertebral disc. The intervertebral disc consists of soft jelly with a hard cartilage rim around it.

A nerve leaves the spinal cord between every two vertebrae. Together, these nerves form the sciatic nerve that runs through your buttocks into your leg and your foot.

Furthermore, your vertebrae are held together by the joint capsule and the muscles around your back. You have two types of muscles in your back. Muscles that stabilize and move your back and muscles that help you lift heavy things.

Your back is designed to move, walk, and lift a lot. However, to do this properly and pain-free, he must be strong and flexible. If one of the structures described above is no longer healthy, this can lead to pain.

I will explain to you what the cause of your lower back pain can be based on your symptoms to know which exercises you can and cannot do.

lower back pain

Lower back pain symptoms

The most common form of lower back pain is nonspecific lower back pain. Symptoms often start after throwing out your back while bending or lifting. You often feel the pain on one side, and it can radiate to your buttock, hip, or thigh.

Bending over and lifting is often difficult, as is putting on your socks and getting up after sitting for a while. Lying down and walking relieves the pain. A muscle strain seems to cause non-specific low back pain, but this is not yet certain.

Another form of lower back pain is a herniated disc. In a herniated disc, the intervertebral disc presses against a nerve in your back. It creates radicular pain in your leg up to your calf and sometimes your foot. The pain in your leg is usually worse than in your back. Bending over is very painful, and so is sitting. Walking and lying down often go better. You may also experience tingling and loss of strength in your leg. It’s the most common form of sciatica.

A less common cause of lower back pain is spinal stenosis. In spinal stenosis, the spinal canal narrows as a result of wear and tear. This can give you radiation in one or both lower legs during long walking, and climbing stairs can also give radiating pain. When you sit down for a while, the radiation quickly disappears. That is clearly different from when you have a hernia.

A final possible cause is osteoarthritis in your back. From the age of 60, the osteoarthritis of your lower back often increases. It means that the cartilage in the back decreases. It can make your back stiffer, and you can experience a nagging pain that does not radiate. You often have trouble getting up in the morning, but once you get moving, you’ll be fine.

Now that you know the most common back pain causes, it’s time to start treating them.

Lower back pain treatment with 6 exercises

Exercises work best for lower back pain. Any cause of lower back pain can be alleviated with exercises.

Non-specific lower back pain recovers very well on its own. Most people get rid of their pain within 6 weeks, even without exercise.

A herniated disc can also recover well through exercise therapy so that surgery is usually not necessary. Surgery is only considered if exercises do not change the pain within 3 months or if there is an increase in complaints.

You cannot cure osteoarthritis in your lower back with exercises because the cartilage does not come back. What you can do is ensure that the wear and tear give you as little pain as possible by keeping your back strong and flexible with the exercises.

The consequences of spinal stenosis can often also be alleviated by improving the mobility of your back. In addition, a heat pack always helps against back pain because it makes your muscles more flexible.

I am now going to discuss all 6 exercises. These are 3 stretches and 3 strength exercises. If your back problems increase for every exercise, it is better to do the exercise less intensively or even skip it altogether.

Also read: Hip pain causes, treatment, and stretching exercises for relief.

Lower back pain treatment with 6 exercises

Lower back pain exercise 1: Improve the mobility of your back

The purpose of the first exercise is to improve the mobility of your lower back. By making your back more flexible, the load on your muscles and joints decreases, reducing your lower back pain.

This exercise is good for all lower back pain causes.

The exercise goes like this:

  • Lie on your back
  • Bend your knees and put your feet on the floor
  • Put your arms sideways on the floor
  • Rotate your knees to the side as far as possible and keep your shoulders on the floor
  • Hold for 10 seconds and then turn the other way

You can also find the execution of the exercise in this video.

Repeat the exercise 10 times on each side and do this 3 times a day. You will notice that this makes your back more flexible.

Lower back pain exercise 1: Improve the mobility of your back

Lower back pain exercise 2: Improve extension of your back

The second exercise focuses on improving your lower back extension. Stretching your back is especially difficult with osteoarthritis and a herniated disc.

Your back also becomes less stiff by improving the stretching, and your back muscles are less stressed. In addition, the pressure on the nerve reduces, which gives immediate pain relief in hernia complaints.

You can do the exercise for any cause of lower back pain. With spinal stenosis, it may be that your pain increases. In that case, it is better to skip the exercise.

The exercise goes like this:

  • Stand with your hands behind your back, pressing your index fingers on the painful area in your spine.
  • Hold this pressure and then bend backward as far as possible.
  • Repeat this 10 times and do this several times a day.

Watch the video for the exact implementation.

Lower back pain Exercise 2: Improve extension of your back

Lower back pain exercise 3: Improving the bending of your back

The third exercise focuses on improving lower back flexion. With lower back pain, especially the lowest part of the lower back, is stiff when bending. By improving this, you can often relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis. It’s an excellent lower back pain stretching exercise.

When there is a herniated disc or acute low back pain, this exercise gives more complaints initially, and I advise you not to do it.

The exercise goes like this:

  • Lie on your back
  • Pull both knees to your chest
  • Hold this for 20 seconds
  • Repeat this 3 times

In the photo, you can see how to perform the exercise.

To stretch your back even more, you can try to rotate your knees in circles. It allows you to stretch the stiffest spots in your lower back even better.

Lower back pain exercise 3: Improve the bending of your back

Lower back pain exercise 4: Improve the stability of your lower back

The fourth lower back pain exercise improves the stability of your lower back. The exercise trains the small back muscles to work better together and react faster. These muscles often function insufficiently in people with chronic lower back pain but also after acute back pain.

Therefore, the exercise works best for people with acute lower back pain, chronic back pain, and a herniated disc.

The exercise goes like this:

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent
  • Cross your arms on your chest
  • Now lift your pelvis off the ground
  • Hold this for 10 seconds
  • Repeat 3 times

The exercise can also be seen in this video.

Perform the exercise twice a day. When the basic execution becomes too easy, you can perform the exercise with one leg extended. Also, hold this for 10 seconds on each side and repeat 3 times. You can then build up the exercise to 15 seconds.

Lower back pain exercise 4: Improve the stability of your lower back

Lower back pain exercise 5: Improving lower back strength

The fifth lower back pain exercise focuses on improving the strength of your lower back. In addition to muscles that stabilize your back, you also have muscles that make your back stronger and help with bending and lifting. The exercise helps with all types of lower back pain.

The exercise goes like this:

  • Lie on your stomach
  • Put your arms bent in front of your head
  • Now lift your upper body and your arms
  • Repeat 10 times
  • Do this 3 times in a row

If it gets easier, you can also try 15 or 20 reps.

Lower back pain exercise 5: Improve lower back strength

Lower back pain exercise 6: Squats

The sixth and final exercise for lower back pain is doing squats. Squats is an exercise that trains the back muscles, glutes, and leg muscles.

Strong leg muscles and glutes ensure that your back is less heavily loaded and, therefore, less likely to hurt. It is a heavy exercise that you can do better if your back pain has already decreased slightly and the previous back pain exercises are already a bit easier.

The exercise works for any kind of back pain.

the exercise goes like this:

  • Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart
  • Stretch your arms forward
  • Bend your knees and bring your buttocks back as if you were sitting on a chair
  • Repeat 10 times
  • Do this 3 times

You can also find the execution of the exercise in the photo.

When the exercise becomes easier, you can increase the number of repetitions to 15-20 and eventually start doing it with weight.

Lower back pain exercise 6: Squats


With these exercises and tips, you should be able to greatly reduce your back pain. The most important thing is to overcome your fear and train you in the right way.

If you have any question left you can send me an e-mail.

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