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Low Back Pain: Exercises


Here are some examples of exercises for you to try. The exercises may be suggested for a condition or for rehabilitation. Start each exercise slowly. Ease off the exercises if you start to have pain.

You will be told when to start these exercises and which ones will work best for you.

How to do the exercises


Press-up stretch to ease back pain
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slide 1 of 9, Press-up,
  1. Lie on your stomach, supporting your body with your forearms.
  2. Press your elbows down into the floor to raise your upper back. As you do this, relax your stomach muscles and allow your back to arch without using your back muscles. As your press up, do not let your hips or pelvis come off the floor.
  3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then relax.
  4. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Alternate arm and leg (bird dog)

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slide 2 of 9, Alternate arm and leg (bird dog),
  1. Start on the floor, on your hands and knees.
  2. Tighten your belly muscles by pulling your belly button in toward your spine. Be sure you continue to breathe normally and do not hold your breath.
  3. Keeping your back and neck straight, raise one arm off the floor and hold it straight out in front of you. Be careful not to let your shoulder drop down, because that will twist your trunk.
  4. Hold for about 6 seconds, then lower your arm and switch to your other arm. Over time, work up to holding for 10 to 30 seconds each time.
  5. Repeat 8 to 12 times with each arm.

When you feel steady and strong doing this exercise with your arms, try doing the exercise with your legs instead. Raise one leg and hold it straight out behind you. Be careful not to let your hip drop down, because that will twist your trunk.

When holding your leg straight out becomes easier, try raising your opposite arm at the same time.

Knee-to-chest exercise

Knee-to-chest exercise
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slide 3 of 9, Knee-to-chest exercise,
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Bring one knee to your chest, keeping the other foot flat on the floor (or keeping the other leg straight, whichever feels better on your lower back).
  3. Keep your lower back pressed to the floor. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Relax, and lower the knee to the starting position.
  5. Repeat with the other leg. Repeat 2 to 4 times with each leg.
  6. To get more stretch, put your other leg flat on the floor while pulling your knee to your chest.


Curl-ups exercise
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slide 4 of 9, Curl-ups,
  1. Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Your feet should be flat on the floor, about 30 centimetres from your buttocks.
  2. Cross your arms over your chest. If this bothers your neck, try putting your hands behind your neck (not your head), with your elbows spread apart.
  3. Slowly tighten your belly muscles and raise your shoulder blades off the floor.
  4. Keep your head in line with your body, and do not press your chin to your chest.
  5. Hold this position for 1 or 2 seconds, then slowly lower yourself back down to the floor.
  6. Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Pelvic tilt

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slide 5 of 9, Pelvic tilt,
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Tighten your belly muscles and buttocks, and press your lower back to the floor. You should feel your hips and pelvis rock back.
  3. Hold for about 6 seconds while breathing smoothly, and then relax.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Heel dig bridging

Heel dig bridging exercise
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slide 6 of 9, Heel dig bridging,
  1. Lie on your back with both knees bent and your ankles bent so that only your heels are digging into the floor. Your knees should be bent about 90 degrees.
  2. Then push your heels into the floor, squeeze your buttocks, and lift your hips off the floor until your shoulders, hips, and knees are all in a straight line.
  3. Hold for about 6 seconds as you continue to breathe normally, and then slowly lower your hips back down to the floor and rest for up to 10 seconds.
  4. Do 8 to 12 repetitions.

Hamstring stretch in doorway

Hamstring stretch in a doorway
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slide 7 of 9, Hamstring stretch in doorway,
  1. Lie on your back in a doorway, with one leg through the open door.
  2. Slide your leg up the wall to straighten your knee. You should feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg.
  3. Hold the stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Do not arch your back, point your toes, or bend either knee. Keep one heel touching the floor and the other heel touching the wall.
  4. Repeat with your other leg.
  5. Do 2 to 4 times for each leg.

Hip flexor stretch

Hip flexor stretch
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slide 8 of 9, Hip flexor stretch,
  1. Kneel on the floor with one knee bent and one leg behind you. Place your forward knee over your foot. Keep your other knee touching the floor.
  2. Slowly push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the upper thigh of your rear leg.
  3. Hold the stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat with your other leg.
  4. Do 2 to 4 times on each side.

Back press

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slide 9 of 9, Back press,
  1. Stand with your back 25 to 30 centimetres (10 to 12 inches) away from a wall.
  2. Lean into the wall until your back is against it. Press your lower back against the wall by pulling in your stomach muscles.
  3. Slowly slide down until your knees are slightly bent, pressing your lower back into the wall.
  4. Hold for at least 6 seconds, then slide back up the wall.
  5. Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Over time, work up to holding this position for as much as 1 minute.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.