Spine Dragon site logo: Michael J H McCarthy, Consultant Spinal Surgeon

Exercises for the Low Back

The exercises outlined here are frequently recommended to help prevent and decrease low back pain. They strengthen the core supporting muscles of the back and trunk, teach good alignment and demonstrate gentle stretches for tight muscles.

Not all of these exercises are suitable for all types of back pain. It is advised that you discuss them with your health care practitioner first (doctor, physiotherapist, Pilates / yoga instructor, chiropractor, osteopath etc.) especially if you have a medical condition such as a heart condition or have had previous surgery such as a total hip replacement.

It is recommended that you read the low back pain and hurt not harm sections of the spinedragon website before embarking on these exercises.

Perform each exercise slowly and gently. Stop any exercise if it hurts too much. Aim to complete twenty to thirty minutes of exercise per day. Remember that when reconditioning your back muscles the pain may well get worse before it gets better. This does not mean you are doing yourself any harm. You will be using deconditioned weaker muscles that need time to re-strengthen and relearn their function.

Remember to pace yourself and gradually build up doing the exercises especially if you are having a good day. Do not do too much too soon or you may find that you suffer the next day. The number of repetitions is for guidance only.

Remember to relax during the exercises, breathe slowly and deeply with each exercise, engage your stomach muscles to support your back, keep your neck long and your shoulders down away from your ears, and be attentive to symmetry and balance.

Stop exercising if you develop severe pain that lasts more than 20 minutes.

Your pelvic floor muscles are also very important when rehabilitating your back. When you are doing the exercises, gently pull up on your pelvic floor muscles at the same time. This will help you to contract your deep stomach muscles. The way to do this is to imagine that you are trying to stop passing wind. It is an internal pull and your buttocks should not clench and you should not bear down. No one will know that you are doing this exercise.

If you are overweight then it is equally if not more important to start a healthy weight loss and diet program.

If you are unable to get comfortably down to and off the floor then consider attending a gym, Pilates or yoga class etc. where assistance is available. Alternatively try an aqua aerobics class.

When your low back pain improves remember to continue to do the exercises regularly to maintain your core stability.

I would like to give a special thanks to the Vale Resort for the use of their facilities and to Mrs A Baker, Vale Resort Pilates Instructor (pictured).


We have some third-party exercise videos available.

Spinedragon Exercise PDFs

Basic Exercises for Low Back Pain

Advanced Exercises for Low Back Pain

Exercises for Non-Specific Low Back Pain

Exercises for the First 6 Weeks Following Discectomy Decompression Surgery

Exercises for the First 12 Weeks Following Lumbar Fusion Surgery

Complete Set of Exercises

Spinedragon Exercise Videos

Pilates Saw Exercise

Shoulder Bridge Exercise

More spinal exercises can be found here:

AAOS Spine Conditioning Program

American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Arthritis UK back pain

Arthitis UK neck pain

Avoiding Back Pain at a Desk

BackCare exercises for back pain

NHS Pilates exercise video

NHS fitness plans

North American Spine Society

SPORT Non Surgical Guide

SPORT Spine Surgery Guide