The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends exercising to speed recovery from a back injury. Rebuilding strength and flexibility allows you to return to daily activity more quickly and helps prevent further injuries to your back. Stretching, strength training and aerobic exercise helps relieve pain while restoring strength and motion to your lower back. Consult your physician or physical therapist to discuss appropriate exercises and stretches prior to beginning an exercise regimen after a back injury.
Engaging in exercises or activities your body is not used to may further injure your back or prolong recovery. Strengthening the muscles of your back and those that support it helps to lessen the amount of stress put on your joints. Stretching and flexibility exercises provide pain relief while reducing muscle spasms that often occur due to an injury. Improving your overall fitness level reduces the amount of stress put on your body when exercising or performing daily activity and allows for a quicker recovery following an injury.
Strengthening your lower back includes strengthening your core. Core muscles include the transversus abdominus, internal and external oblique muscles, pelvic floor muscles and the erector spinae. The abdominal and back muscles work together to provide the strength necessary to keep the body upright and movable. Weak core muscles lead to stress on the spine, which often results in back injury or back pain.
After a lower back injury, simple low abdominal exercises, such as pelvic tilts, allow you to engage the core without putting strain on your back. Superman exercises, which involve lifting one arm and the opposite leg at the same time while lying in the prone position or resting on your hands and knees, help improve stability in your abdominal and lower back muscles by engaging the core.
Stretching helps your back return to its normal range-of-motion while improving flexibility in the process. The knee to chest stretch lengthens the lower back muscles while relieving pain and stiffness. Lie on your back and bring one knee towards your chest. Place your hands behind your hamstring and gently pull your thigh toward your chest until you feel the stretch. Hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds, then slowly lower your leg back down to the floor. Repeat on the opposite leg, working up to five repetitions on each side. This stretch increases range-of-motion in both the lower back and the hips.
After an injury, high impact exercises that put excessive strain on the lower back should be avoided until you've regained strength and stability in your core. Low impact exercises, such as walking, swimming or riding a stationary bicycle, strengthen muscles while improving your cardiovascular fitness level. These activities allow you to maintain or increase your fitness level while rebuilding strength in your lower back.