Lower Back Exercises for Back Injury Rehabilitation

Young man performing back extension exercise with friends on balls in fitness center
Back extensions help relieve back pain and decrease disability. (Image: kjekol/iStock/Getty Images)

Lower back injuries are frightening. You don't realize how much you use your lower back until you injure it. And, then even the most simple movements, like standing up, become a challenge. The pain from such an injury makes your bed seem rather inviting. It's tempting to want to lay down all day. However, if you want to get back to normal you'll have to start moving again.

After your injury, it's important to start doing rehabilitation exercises. Staying active and performing even simple back exercises will help ease your pain, shows a 2011 research review published in the European Spine Journal. Even though it's tempting to stay in bed, you will feel better if you get up and start doing some exercises.

What to Avoid

The most important thing to remember when you start doing exercises is to avoid anything that hurts your lower back. Your injury needs a chance to heal, and moving your spine in the wrong direction can injure it even more. There are three basic ways that your spine can move: forwards and backward, side-to-side, and rotational. Your rehabilitation should include only the motions that don't hurt.

Frequency of Exercise

Because they are relatively low-intensity, some therapists recommend doing your rehabilitation exercises for 10 to 30 minutes per day, up to three times per day , according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Group of people performing yoga on the beach
Side-bending helps train the spine to go side-to-side. (Image: Valueline/Valueline/Getty Images)

Back Extension

A 2013 study published in Spine shows that this exercise, performed with a large range of motion or a small range of motion, will help reduce your lower back pain and decrease the amount of disability caused by your injury.

How To: Lie completely flat on the ground, stomach side down, and lift your head and shoulders off of the mat using your lower back muscles. Your arms should be by your sides the entire time, not helping you lift yourself up.

Tail Wagging

During this exercise, you'll practice bending your spine side-to-side from the very supported and safe quadruped position.

How To: Get on the floor on your hands and knees. Your entire spine should be flat and straight. Then, bring your right should toward your right hip, focusing on bending your spine to the side while keeping it parallel to the ground. Repeat on the left.


You'll typically find this exercise in yoga classes as a safe way to stretch the spine.

How To: Start on the ground on your hands and knees. Breathe out and round your spine as much as possible. Then, breathe in and arch your back as much as possible.

Back Bend

Your abs need to contribute in this exercise to stop your back from bending too far.

How To: Stand tall with your arms straight up over your head. Bend backwards with your upper body, reaching backwards with your arms. Go back as far as is comfortable, then return to standing straight.

Side Bend

This exercise challenges your obliques to protect your spine from bending too far.

How To: Raise one arm up over your head. Bend it over your head, reaching across to the other side of your body. Bend as far as is comfortable, then return to standing.

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