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Back Pain Center

The Best Exercises for a Strained Lower Back

author image Angela Brady
Angela Brady has been writing since 1997. Currently transitioning to a research career in oncolytic virology, she has won awards for her work related to genomics, proteomics, and biotechnology. She is also an authority on sustainable design, having studied, practiced and written extensively on the subject.
The Best Exercises for a Strained Lower Back
Exercise may help relieve lower back pain. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

Many people avoid activity after a lower-back strain, but that allows the muscles to stiffen and is counterproductive to healing. Avoiding exercise for a day or two is OK, but bed rest is unnecessary, according to MedlinePlus. Begin exercising as soon as possible -- this keeps the muscles warm and active and can help strengthen them against future strain. Avoid any movement that stresses the area; see your doctor if pain persists.

Low-Impact Aerobic Activity

Gentle aerobic activity is essential to relieving lower back pain. Avoid activities that require twisting such as golf and dancing, high-impact activities such as running, or contact sports such as football to avoid further injury, but focus on gentle, moderate-intensity exercise. Walking, cycling or swimming will help stretch the back muscles and promote good posture, which will help relieve pain.


The Cat/Camel stretch will loosen both your back and your abs. Kneel on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Drop your head and arch your back toward the ceiling, pulling in your abs as you exhale. Hold the position for five seconds. Then reverse the movement, raising your head and arching your stomach toward the floor as you inhale, and hold the position for five seconds. Repeat the exercise 10 times. Transition slowly between the two positions, and stop if you feel any pain or resistance.

Supine Hamstring Stretch

Lie on your back with a small, rolled-up towel beneath your lower back for support. Keep one leg straight on the ground, and raise the other leg straight into the air. Use both hands to grasp the back of the raised thigh, and gently pull the leg toward you. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and perform a total of three stretches on each leg. This stretch works your hamstrings as well as your lower back.

Child's Pose

Child's pose is a yoga move that stretches the whole back, but is particularly good for lower back strains because of the support you get from your thighs. Kneel with your knees below your hips, and slowly lean forward until you are on all fours. Keeping your hands in place on the floor, sink your buttocks back toward your heels while slightly spreading your knees. Lower yourself until you are face down, arms out in front of you, knees on either side of your rib cage. If you feel a strain on your lower back, adjust the width of your thighs until you are properly supported. Hold the position for 30 seconds to a minute, breathing slowly and deeply throughout.

Prone Hip Extensions

This exercise will help strengthen your lower back muscles to make them less susceptible to future injury. Lie on your stomach with your legs straight out behind you and your forehead resting on your hands. Tighten the gluteal muscles on one side, and slowly lift that leg into the air. Do not force the movement higher than it naturally goes -- a few inches is enough. Hold the position for five seconds, then repeat with the other leg. Do three sets of 10 repetitions, always tensing your glutes before lifting the leg.

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