LivaFortis presents a practical guide on how to exercise safely and confidently with low back pain.

How to Exercise with Low Back Pain: A Practical Guide

6 min readMay 2, 2024

Dealing with low back pain can feel like a constant battle. And you might feel like you are losing more than you are winning. Sometimes the last thing you might feel like doing is exercise, but did you know that the right kind of exercise can actually help alleviate your lower back pain?

Yes, you read that correctly! When done correctly, exercises tailored for low back pain can strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and promote healing. Let’s dive into the world of exercising with low back pain and discover some of the best and safest ways to get moving.

Understanding Low Back Pain

Before we jump into the exercises, let’s briefly touch on what causes low back pain. Back pain can stem from a variety of issues, such as muscle strains, herniated discs, arthritis, or even poor posture. The good news is, no matter the cause, exercise can often be part of the solution.

The Benefits of Exercise for Low Back Pain

Research has consistently shown that exercise can be an effective tool in managing and even reducing low back pain. A 2023 study published in the journal Healthcare found that

“Physical exercise was shown to be an effective intervention for reducing pain intensity, functional disability, overall work-related stress, and improving QoL in office workers with chronic NSNP”.

Participants who engaged in regular exercise experienced significant improvements in pain intensity and disability compared to those who did not exercise.

Now that we know that exercise is good for low back pain, let’s take a look at some of the most recommended exercises for this debilitating condition.

Best Exercises for Low Back Pain

1. Knee-to-Chest Stretch

The Knee-to-Chest Stretch is an excellent exercise for low back pain as it helps to gently stretch and release tension in the lower back muscles. According to a study in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, this stretch has been shown to improve flexibility and reduce pain in individuals with chronic low back pain.

How To Do It:

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent.
  • Slowly bring one knee up towards your chest, holding it with both hands.
  • Hold for 15–30 seconds, then switch legs.
  • This stretch helps loosen up the lower back muscles and can be done gently to avoid straining your back.

2. Pelvic Tilt:

Pelvic Tilts are effective for strengthening the core muscles that support the lower back, promoting stability and reducing strain on the spine. A study published in the European Spine Journal found that Pelvic Tilts significantly improved lumbar stabilization and reduced pain intensity in patients with nonspecific low back pain

How To Do It:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and press your lower back into the floor.
  • Hold this pose for a few seconds, then release.
  • This exercise is great for strengthening the core muscles that support your lower back.

3. Cat-Cow Stretch:

The Cat-Cow Stretch is a gentle and dynamic movement that helps improve flexibility and mobility in the spine, relieving stiffness and discomfort. Research published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies suggests that the Cat-Cow Stretch can enhance spinal mobility and reduce pain in individuals with chronic low back pain.

How To Do It:

  • Get on your hands and knees, with your hands aligned under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
  • Inhale and arch your back, dropping your belly towards the floor (Cow pose).
  • Slowly exhale and round your spine upward, tucking your chin towards your chest (Cat pose).
  • Repeat this flow for several breaths.
  • The Cat-Cow stretch helps improve your spine’s flexibility and it also helps with mobility.

4. Bird-Dog Exercise:

The Bird-Dog Exercise is a key core-strengthening exercise that targets the muscles in your back and abdomen. It is wonderful for promoting spinal stability and reducing your risk of injury.

In a study in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, the Bird-Dog exercise was found to significantly improve core strength and helped to reduce low back pain in participants with chronic low back pain.

How To Do It:

  • Start on your hands and knees in the tabletop position.
  • Extend one arm forward and the opposite leg backward while keeping your hips stable (not tilted to one side).
  • Hold this pose for a few seconds, then switch sides.
  • This exercise strengthens both your core and the stabilizing muscles of your back.

5. Partial Crunches:

Partial crunches are a highly effective abdominal exercise that strengthens the core muscles without putting excessive strain on your lower back. According to a study in the Spine Journal, Partial Crunches were shown to improve trunk muscle endurance (helped it stay supported and strong) and they reduced levels of disability in patients with chronic low back pain (patients could do more things and be more active).

How To Do It:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Cross your arms over your chest or place hands behind your head.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your shoulders off the floor.
  • Hold briefly, then slowly lower back down.
  • This exercise specifically targets the abdominal muscles without straining the back.

Safety Tips for Exercising with Low Back Pain

A key concern for people who suffer from low back pain but who still want to exercise is whether or not the exercises will help them or if they will actually make their back pain worse? While these exercises are proven to help with low back pain, it’s crucial to approach them with caution to avoid exacerbating your pain.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

1. Start Slowly and Gradually:

  • Begin with gentle movements and low-impact exercises.
  • Gradually increase intensity and duration as your back becomes stronger.

2. Listen to Your Body:

  • Pay attention to how your back feels during and after exercise.
  • If you feel sharp pain or increased discomfort, stop the exercise.

3. Use Proper Form:

  • Proper technique is essential to prevent injury.
  • If unsure, seek guidance from a physical therapist or trainer.

4. Warm-Up and Cool Down:

  • Always warm up your muscles with light cardio or dynamic stretches before exercising.
  • Cool down with static stretches to maintain flexibility and reduce muscle tension.

5. Modify as Needed:

  • Don’t be afraid to modify exercises to suit your comfort level.
  • For example, if a full plank is too much, try a modified plank on your knees.


Exercise can be a powerful tool in managing low back pain, but it’s essential to approach it with care and awareness. By incorporating these gentle and effective exercises into your routine, you can strengthen your back, improve flexibility, and find relief from discomfort. Remember, consistency is key, so aim for regular, moderate exercise to reap the benefits over time.

Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have underlying health conditions or concerns. With the right approach and mindset, you can take proactive steps towards a healthier and pain-free back.

Here’s to a stronger, happier back!




LivaFortis is an innovative global company that uses AI and biofeedback technology to make digital physical therapy accessible to all.