Video Series: Exercises to Keep a Healthy Back

Try these 5 exercises and stretches to help relieve back pain and improve spinal muscle strength and flexibility.

What exercises promote a healthy spine?

You may have woken up with low back pain or perhaps you’re looking to prevent it—either way, exercising and stretching can help promote a healthy back.

These 5 exercises and stretches may bring relief from back pain while promoting spinal strength, flexibility, and mobility to prevent future pain: pelvic tilt, knee to chest, lower trunk rotation, hamstring stretch, and bridge.

Pelvic Tilt

Purpose: To strengthen your abdominal muscles and stretch your low back.

How to perform a pelvic tilt:

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. As you breathe out, contract your abdominal muscles, push your belly button toward the floor, and flatten your low back.
  3. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Relax.
  4. Repeat 10 times, holding for 5 seconds each time.

How can I tell if I’m doing the pelvic tilt right?

  • Using the same hand, place your pinky finger on your hip bone and thumb on your lowest rib.
  • As you squeeze your abdominals, the space between your pinky and thumb should get smaller.

Pelvic tilts can help you gently stretch your low backPelvic tilts can help you gently stretch your low back. Photo Source:

Knee to Chest

Purpose: To relieve back pain by reducing pressure on the nerves in your low back.

How to perform a knee to chest stretch:

  1. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Bring your knee toward your chest.
  3. Using your hands, gently pull your leg in until you feel a comfortable stretch.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds, then lower your leg.
  5. Repeat with the other leg and hold for 10 seconds.
  6. Repeat on each leg 3 to 5 times.
  7. After stretching each leg individually, raise both legs to your chest and hold in the stretched position for 10 seconds.
  8. Repeat with both legs 3 to 5 times.

Alternating knee to chest exercises.Alternating knee to chest stretches may help reduce low back pain. Photo Source:

Lower Trunk Rotation

Purpose: To increase your spine’s mobility (ability to move) and flexibility.

How to perform a lower trunk rotation:

  1. Lie on your back in the hook lying position (with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor).
  2. While contracting your abdominal muscles, rotate your knees to one side.
  3. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds. You will feel a gentle stretching in your low back and hips.
  4. While contracting your abdominal muscles, rotate your knees to the other side.
  5. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds.
  6. Repeat up to 10 times on both sides.

Lumbar side roll exercise.Modified version of the lower trunk rotation demonstrated in the video. Photo Source:

Hamstring Stretch

Purpose: To decrease tension in the back of your leg and low back.

How to perform a hamstring stretch:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Raise 1 leg and wrap a towel around your thigh to pull your leg into a comfortable stretch.
  3. Hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds.
  4. Repeat with your other leg.
  5. Do the stretch 3 times per leg.

 Woman performing hamstring stretch, laying on back.If you don’t have a towel, you can use your hands to gently pull your thigh toward your body to stretch your hamstring muscles. Photo Source:


Purpose: To stabilize your spine by strengthening your low back and hip muscles.

How to perform a bridge:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms by your sides.
  2. Slowly raise your hips off the floor while contracting your glutes (buttocks) and your hamstrings.
  3. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds.
  4. Gently lower your hips to the floor.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Woman performing bridge exercise.The bridge exercise can help strengthen your spine and hip muscles. Photo Source:

How do these exercises reduce low back pain?

Whether you have a low back ache or are proactively seeking ways to improve your spine health, these 5 exercises and stretches can help.

Let’s say you woke up with back pain, a leftover strain from something you did yesterday. Perhaps you lifted something heavy without using proper lifting techniques, or maybe your back couldn’t take the strain of gardening all afternoon. Your pain isn’t severe enough to go into the doctor; in fact, most back pain is a muscle sprain or strain that will go away on its own in a few weeks. But until your pain goes away, these easy exercises and stretches may bring relief.

Or perhaps you’re looking for ways to prevent pain. Even if you don’t have back pain right now, you probably have had it at some point—and you’ll probably have it again. To keep your back healthy, you should keep it strong, mobile, and flexible. Going through these simple stretches and exercises will help you do just that.

The activities demonstrated here stretch and strengthen your low back, abdomen, and legs. When these areas are strong, your spine is better prepared to ward off spinal injury. A stronger lower body also takes stress off your spine by promoting better body weight distribution and posture.

Can exercising with low back pain hurt me?

These back exercises and stretches can be easily added to your normal exercise routine or performed when you first get up every day. But first, get your doctor’s approval before you start this or any new physical activity regimen.

Also, don’t ignore it when something doesn’t feel right during or after you exercise. If you experience any pain or other symptoms (weakness, tingling, numbness, etc.), please contact your spine professional immediately. Increasing pain or other symptoms could indicate a more serious spinal condition (such as degenerative disc disease or spondylolisthesis) that warrants medical care.

On a related note, do not push too hard when exercising to improve spinal health. Your low back will get the most benefit when you exercise thoughtfully with a focus on form and consistency. Trying to do too much may cause injury and saddle you with more back pain.

Whether you want to better manage your back pain or prevent it from happening in the first place, exercise and stretching can help you achieve a healthy back. But please understand that exercising to manage low back pain is not a quick fix—it’s a long-term lifestyle. With consistency and consideration, stretching and exercise are a strong force against spine pain.

Continue Reading …Exercise Center—Flexibility and Strength Training, Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise