Exercises: Back Stretches & StrengtheningOpen print version

Overview

Exercise is a vital part of treating the spine after injury or surgery. Active therapeutic exercises distribute nutrients into the disc space, joints and soft tissues in the back. A regular exercise routine helps patients improve mobility and strength, minimize recurrence, and reduces the severity and duration of possible future episodes of back pain.

What exercises help maintain a healthy back?

Exercises for a healthy back can be divided into three basic groups:

  1. Strengthening: repeated muscle contractions until the muscle becomes tired.
  2. Stretching or Flexibility: slow, sustained lengthening of the muscle.
  3. Low-impact Aerobic: steady exercise using large muscle groups.

All of these exercises should be performed slowly and comfortably to avoid injury. When performing strengthening and flexibility exercises, remember to breathe naturally and without holding your breath; exhale during exertion and inhale during relaxation.

We strongly recommend that you consult with your physician or physical therapist before beginning any exercise program. The following are general exercises for those with low back symptoms. Modifications may be necessary for specific spine conditions. DO NOT ignore pain. If you feel increased pain or pain spreading to the legs, do not continue the activity.

Exercises: Back Stretches

Photo 1 Supine Hamstring Stretch

1.Supine Hamstring Stretch: Lie on your back, starting with both knees bent. Wrap a rope or towel around one foot. While holding both ends of the towel, slowly lift one leg off the surface until a stretch is felt in the back of the leg. Hold 20 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times on each side. Perform 2 times per day.

Photo 2 Knee to chest excercise

2.Knee to Chest: Lie on your back with both knees bent. Grab behind one knee and gently pull the knee towards your chest until a comfortable stretch is felt in the lower back. Hold 20 seconds then return to starting position. Repeat 3 times on each side. Perform 2 times per day.

Photo 3 Piriformis Stretch

3.Piriformis Stretch: Lie on your back with both knees bent. Pull one knee to your opposite shoulder. Keep your back flat, do not twist. Hold 20 seconds then return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times on each side. Perform 2 times per day.

Photo 2 Knee to chest excercise

4.Prone Quadriceps Stretch: Lie on your stomach. Put a rope, sheet or belt around one of your feet and pull your heel toward your buttock until you feel