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Best physical therapy exercises for lower back pain


Lower back pain, a common ailment for many, goes beyond being a mere discomfort—it significantly impacts daily life. This prevalent issue can disrupt routine activities, affecting work, leisure, and overall well-being. In addressing this challenge, exploring effective solutions such as targeted physical therapy exercises for lower back pain becomes imperative. 

In this blog, we delve into the world of physical therapy exercises, aiming to provide not just relief but a pathway to recovery for those grappling with persistent lower back discomfort.

For more comprehensive guidance on physical therapy, you can explore further at Inside Track Physical Therapy.

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

Experiencing lower back pain can result from various factors. Before delving into specific causes, let’s explore the overarching contributors to this prevalent issue.

Identifying the Root Causes

Understanding the origins of lower back pain involves recognizing a range of factors that contribute to this discomfort. Here are key contributors:

Poor Posture: Prolonged periods of sitting or standing in positions that strain the spine can lead to lower back pain. Recognizing and correcting poor posture is crucial for alleviating this issue.

Muscle Strain: Overexertion, heavy lifting, or sudden movements can strain the muscles in the lower back. Identifying situations that may cause muscle strain and adopting proper lifting techniques are essential preventive measures.

Herniated Discs: When the soft, gel-like center of a spinal disc pushes through a tear in its tough exterior, it can lead to a herniated disc. This condition often results in localized pain and requires targeted interventions for relief.

Arthritis: Various forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis, can affect the lower back. Understanding the specific type of arthritis involved is crucial for implementing appropriate management strategies.

How to Relieve Lower Back Pain

A woman is sitting on a window sill doing yoga.

When addressing lower back pain, effective relief involves not only specific exercises but also lifestyle adjustments and general approaches. Consider these strategies that significantly relieve lower back pain and enhance overall well-being: 

Use Ergonomic Furniture: Invest in furniture that supports good posture, such as chairs with proper lumbar support and desks at the right height.

Apply Heat or Cold Packs: Alternating between heat and cold therapy can help reduce inflammation and soothe discomfort.

Stay Active Within Limits: Engage in low-impact activities like walking or swimming to maintain flexibility and strength without exacerbating pain.

Manage Stress: Emotional well-being is connected to physical health. Stress management techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, can contribute to lower back pain relief.

Ensure Quality Sleep: Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows to support a good sleeping posture, promoting proper spinal alignment.

The Importance of Physical Therapy

Recommended Exercises

Understanding the pivotal role of physical therapy in managing and preventing lower back pain is crucial for comprehensive well-being. A study from the UW School of Medicine suggests that patients with low-back pain fare better by initially consulting a physical therapist.

Explore how targeted physical therapy interventions can make a significant difference:

Personalized Assessment: Physical therapists conduct thorough assessments to understand your unique condition, identifying specific factors contributing to lower back pain.

Targeted Treatment Plans: Based on the assessment, physical therapists devise personalized treatment plans that may include exercises, manual therapy, and other modalities tailored to address your specific needs.

Pain Management: Physical therapy focuses on effective pain management strategies, helping you alleviate discomfort and improve your overall pain threshold.

Improved Mobility and Flexibility: Through targeted exercises and interventions, physical therapy aims to enhance your mobility and flexibility, promoting better movement patterns and reducing the risk of future pain.

Holistic Approach: Physical therapy takes a holistic approach, considering not only the physical aspect but also addressing psychological and social factors that may contribute to lower back pain.

Recommended Exercises

The Importance of Physical Therapy

According to a meta-analysis study sourced from the National Institute of Health, engaging in medium to high levels of leisure-time physical activity such as exercising can reduce the risk of developing chronic lower back pain by 11–16%.

These exercises have been recognized as some of the best in physical therapy for low back pain physical exercise due to their effectiveness in improving flexibility, strengthening core muscles, and promoting overall spinal health.

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

How to: Lie on your back, bring one knee toward your chest, and hold for 15-30 seconds.

Targeted Muscles: Stretching the lower back and glutes.

Lower Back Rotational Stretch

How to: Lie on your back, bring one knee across your body, and hold for 15-30 seconds.

Targeted Muscles: Engages lower back muscles and promotes spinal mobility.

Bridge Exercise

How to: Lie on your back, lift your hips toward the ceiling, and hold for a few seconds.

Targeted Muscles: Strengthens the core, lower back, and glutes.

Cat Stretch

How to: Get on your hands and knees, arch your back upward, then drop it down.

Targeted Muscles: Engages the entire back and promotes flexibility.

Seated Lower Back Rotational Stretch

How to: Sit with one leg crossed over the other, twist your torso, and hold for 15-30 seconds.

Targeted Muscles: Promotes flexibility in the lower back and hips.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

How to: Sit or stand with a straight back, squeeze your shoulder blades together for 5-10 seconds.

Targeted Muscles: Strengthens upper back muscles, reducing strain on the lower back.


Q1: Can exercise worsen lower back pain?

A1: When done correctly and under guidance, exercises can improve, not worsen, lower back pain.

Back pain triggered by exercise can result from overexertion, injury, or, most commonly, improper form. Individuals often characterize it as muscle aches, shooting pain, or a burning sensation, as noted by the Orthopedic Institute.

Q2: How often should I do these exercises?

A2: Consistency is key when engaging in back physical therapy exercises. Aim for a routine that fits your schedule, gradually increasing intensity. Performing these exercises at least 3-4 times a week can significantly contribute to relieving and preventing lower back pain.

Q3: Are these exercises suitable for all ages?

A3: Consult with a healthcare professional before starting any exercise routine, especially if you have pre-existing conditions. This personalized guidance ensures that the exercises, including specific workout routines for bad backs, are suitable for individuals of all ages and health backgrounds.


Incorporating physical therapy exercises for lower back pain into your routine can be transformative. Embrace these exercises to promote flexibility, strengthen key muscle groups, and reclaim a life with reduced lower back discomfort.

For a deeper dive into comprehensive physical therapy and wellness, explore the services provided by Inside Track Physical Therapy & Wellness.

A woman standing in a grassy field.

Dr. Jaime Applegate

Inside Track Physical Therapy

If You Want To Be Active, But You're In Pain, We Can Help!