Exercises For Low Back Pain

From Dr. Bryan Schuetz, The Columbus Chiropractors, Columbus, Ohio.

Exercises for low back pain are a great way treat low back pain at home. Make sure you check with your chiropractor before starting any exercise program.

There is a great relationship between low back pain and balance, particularly our unfortunate increased tendency to fall forward as we “mature.”

Today we’re going to look at ways to improve our balance by learning specific exercises for low back pain that utilize the parts of our nervous system that regulate balance or, proprioception. Particularly, our cerebellum (back of the brain that regulates coordination), the vestibular system (the inner ear where the semi-circular canals are located), the ascending tracts in our spinal cord (the “highways” that bring information to the brain from our feet and the rest of our body), and the small “mechano-receptors” located in our joints that pick up our movements as we walk and run and sends that information through our nerves, up the spinal cord tracts to the brain. Here are some very practical exercises to do, “…for the rest of our lives.” Start with the easy ones!

1. Easy (Level 1): Standing eyes open/closed – Start with the feet shoulder width apart, look straight ahead to get your balance and then close the eyes and try not to sway counting to 30 by, “…one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, etc.” Repeat this with your feet closer together until they touch each other. You can make this harder by standing on a pillow or cushion — but don’t start that way!


2. Medium (Level 2): Lunges – from a similar starting position as #1, step forwards with one leg and squat slightly before returning back to the start position. Repeat this 5x with each foot/leg. As you progress, you can take a longer stride and/or squat down further with each repetition. You can even hold onto light dumbbells and/or close your eyes to make it more challenging.


3. Hard (Level 3): Rocker or wobble board exercises – use a platform that rocks back & forth or, wobbles in multiple directions. Rock back and forth, eyes open and then closed, once you get comfortable on the board. You can rotate your body on the board, standing straight ahead (12 o’clock) followed by 45 degree angles as you work your way around in a circle at 45 degree increments (12, 1:30, 3, 4:30, 6, 7:30, 9, 10:30 and back to noon). Repeat these eyes open and closed. The Wii Balance board is a fun way to exercise – check that out as well.

You can “improvise” and mix up different exercises and create your own routine. Just remember, stay safe, work slowly until you build up your confidence and keep challenging yourself.

Another thing that works well for many patients is the use of a foam yoga roller at home. You want to get a foam roller that is made of high density foam and comes with exercises for low back pain. i recommend the J-Fit model below.

The child pose from yoga is one of the best beginning low back pain stretches. Hold for 30 seconds

Now move into the cat pose and old for 15 seconds.

Cow Pose is next. Hold for 15 seconds. Then alternate between cat and cow pose for 5 seconds each for 10 repititions.

Up Dog is a good stretch for extensor muscles of the lower spine. Hold for 20 seconds.

Now move to the down dog position and hold for 20 seconds.

Now lay on the floor and stretch your entire spine by reaching up as far as you can with your hands and down with your feet. Hold for 30 seconds.

For the next exercise for low back pain you will need to start in the seated position with your feet in front of you. Bend one knee and cross that leg over the other leg. Now turn to the same side as the bent leg. Hold each side for 15 seconds and repeat 3 times. 

Now stand up and find a small chair or use a step to elevate the leg a bit. Now reach forward and hold the knee in the fully extended position for the hamstring stretch. Hold for a total of 20 seconds and repeat twice on each side. This is one of my favorite exercises for low back pain. This is because the hamstrings are so important for dupporting the low back and allowing you to move freely.

These next exercises for low back pain help to stretch the lateral aspects of the spine. Hold each direction for 10 seconds and repeat 3 times.

Big 3 Low Back Stretches Video

Click below to watch Dr. Bryan demonstrate the big 3 low back stretches.