Back Exercises to Reduce Pain & Strengthen Core

I totally understand what you’re going through. It can be really confusing to figure out what to do when you’re dealing with back pain. Should you rest or try some exercises? It’s especially tough when doctors give conflicting advice and the pain is so debilitating. But hey, you’re not alone! Did you know that about 80% of people experience chronic low back pain? And get this: billion is spent every year on diagnosing and treating it. Crazy, right?

Back pain can affect anyone, from children to the elderly, and there are a bunch of factors that contribute to it like height, body weight, age, and even how you sit at work. It can be a real downer, but here’s the good news: things are changing. The medical and fitness industries are teaming up to help educate people like you on how to improve your fitness and overall well-being through regular exercise.

Studies have shown that lumbar stabilization exercises and walking not only help relieve back pain, but they can also prevent it from becoming chronic. And get this: exercise training can actually be more effective than traditional hands-on treatment from therapists.

So, why not give it a shot? Take those positive steps towards improving your fitness and feeling better!

How These Back Exercises to Reduce Pain & Strengthen Core Will Help!

Did you know that stretching and exercise can do wonders for your body? Not only does it increase blood flow and circulation, but it also helps with flexibility, muscle control, endurance, and range of motion. And guess what? It even improves your posture, reduces those pesky aches and pains, and boosts your confidence!

Believe it or not, about 90% of low back pain diagnoses have no known cause. But don’t worry, weak hip abductors, extensors, and core muscles are usually to blame. These muscles being weak can cause the hamstrings, iliopsoas, piriformis, and tensor fasciae to become overactive and tight, which puts strain on your low back. Not fun, right?

But here’s the good news! By incorporating these exercises into your routine, you’ll be able to strengthen your core and improve your alignment and stability. And that’s not all – you’ll also experience a reduction in pain intensity, disability level, and an overall improvement in your quality of life.

So, let’s get started on this journey to a stronger and pain-free back, shall we?

When Should You Perform Back Exercises To Reduce Pain?

First and foremost, if you’ve recently experienced a back injury that required medical attention, it’s essential to wait for clearance from your physician before starting an exercise program.

If you’re experiencing stiffness and pain in your back without a clear cause, you can try some self-care measures to alleviate the discomfort. Start by taking ibuprofen and applying ice to the affected area for the first 48 hours. After this initial period, you can switch to using heat. It’s also helpful to stay active by going for a walk or doing some light stretches or stabilisation moves.

If your symptoms don’t improve or persist for more than two weeks, it’s a good idea to seek professional help from a physician such as a physiatrist, chiropractor, or physical therapist. They will be able to identify the underlying issue and determine if any further tests are necessary.

What Are The Back Exercises To Help Reduce Back Pain?

Take your time as you gently work through these exercises, remembering to breathe deeply and focus on your posture and alignment.

It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. So, pay attention to how you feel and listen to your body during exercise. If you notice any discomfort or sharp pain, it’s best to back off (excuse the pun!). Slowly release out of that particular move and try something that doesn’t cause any discomfort. Remember, the golden rule is: if it hurts, don’t do it!

#1. Cat Cow

Cat and cow is a great way to open up the spine and release tension.  Move slowly and regulate your breathing by inhaling on the up and exhaling on the way down as you curve your spine. 

  • Begin on all fours in table pose with your hands under your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. 
  • Inhale as you go into the cow pose by lifting your head and tailbone up and opening your chest.  Relax your shoulders and bring them away from your ears and keep your gaze forwards. 
  • Exhale as you progress into cat pose by arching your back and tucking in your tailbone and relaxing your head towards the floor. 
  • Repeat the process by connecting the breath with the movement and relax; inhaling into cow and exhaling into cat for as many times as you like.

#2. Bird Dog

This move is great for improving low back stability and engages the back and core muscles at the same time.  The muscles extend during the movement and relieve pain and tension.

  • Start on all fours in table pose with your hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips.  
  • Breathe in and then lift your opposite arm and leg up off the floor and exhale.  Form a straight line with your body, from hand to foot, keep the pelvis square and abs engaged. 
  • Hold the leg and arm at the same height for a few seconds and then lower to the floor.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Repeat 2 – 4 times or as many times as you like.

#3. Modified Upward Facing Dog 

Important – This exercise should not be practiced with a recent back injury.  Gently perform upward facing dog without excessive bending of the spine and keep the legs on the floor.  Also only take the stretch to where it is comfortable for you.   This pose opens the chest, strengthens the low spine and stretches your abdominal muscles.  

  • Lie in a supine (face down) position with your legs stretched out behind you and toes pointed
  • Place your hands flat on the floor, squeezed in next to your rib cage with your shoulders over your wrists. 
  • Inhale and then exhale as you push through your fingers, straighten your arms and lift your chest off the floor. 
  • Only straighten your arms as much as your body will allow. Also relax your shoulders by bringing them away from your ears and squeeze your shoulder blades back. 
  • Hold the pose for up to 30 seconds whilst breathing deeply and then exhale back down to the mat.

#4. Downward Dog

Helps strengthen the deep abdominal muscles and lengthens the spine.  It helps to relieve back pain and sciatica.  Try not to over extend through the back, keep the spine straight and neutral by looking towards the feet.  If you find that the hamstrings are tight then modify the pose by bending the knees and stretch gently. 

  • Start in a tabletop position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.  Fingers should be pointing forwards and pressed firmly into the mat. 
  • Inhale and exhale as you tuck your toes and push your pelvis up towards the ceiling and your body into the shape of an A. 
  • Straighten the legs the best you can whilst keeping the knees soft and engaging the quadriceps.  Then press down equally with your hands and your heels and bring the chest towards the thighs.
  • Externally rotate the elbows so that they are pinned into the side of the body and your elbow creases are facing your thumbs.
  • Keep the head relaxed by looking between your legs and hold.  You can hold the pose for 5 breaths or as long as you like.

#5. Hip Flexor Stretch

Stretches the iliopsoas which, when tight, can cause low back pain.  This exercise is great for activating the hamstrings and glutes and takes pressure off of the lumbar spine.  

  • Kneel on one knee in a lunge position with your knee at a 90 degree angle and over the top of your ankle.
  • Keep your back straight with your shoulders back and chest open.  Breathe in and exhale as you move the knee over the top of the ankle until you feel a stretch in the upper thigh and hip flexor. 
  • Hold for 10 – seconds then release and swap sides.  Repeat 2 – 4 times

#6. Bridge

This pose engages the core muscles and strengthens the low back, hamstrings and glutes.  Try to avoid hyperextending your back by pushing your hips too far up to the sky.  Keep a neutral spine and focus on engaging your abdominals and glutes.

  • Lie flat on the floor with your hands down by your side and feet hip distance apart. 
  • Take a deep breath in, exhale on the movement and raise your hips to the sky whilst engaging the core and glutes.  Make sure you don’t hyperextend the back. 
  • Hold for 10 seconds and then slowly release to the floor.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times.

#7. Child’s Pose

This pose is great for soothing as it reverses the direction and decompresses the spine. Try to keep a long neutral spine and neck and avoid rounding the back.  

  • Start by kneeling on the floor with your feet hip width apart and sit up tall.
  • Inhale and then exhale by taking your arms out in front, and lay your torso over your thighs.  Keep a long neutral spine and lengthen through the spine and neck.
  • Draw your ribs away from your tailbone and breathe long deep breaths.
  • Hold for 1-2 minutes

#8. Superman

Designed to lengthen the abdominal muscles, strengthen the low back and engage the glutes and hamstrings.  It also improves the stabilization of the hip extensors and lumbar.  If lifting both hands off the floor is difficult then lift one arm and the opposite leg of the ground and then switch sides. 

  • Lie flat on the floor in a prone (face down position), with legs and arms straight in front of you. 
  • Inhale, then exhale out and and lift your arms and your legs off the floor with your head in neutral position (looking down).
  • Squeeze your belly button to your spine to engage your abs. 
  • Hold the legs and arms up for 5-10 seconds and then lower them to the ground.
  • Repeat this 3-5 times

#9. Supine Hamstring Stretch

Hamstrings are often the main contributor to low back pain and stretching them on a regular basis can help lengthen and reduce tension in the lumbar spine.  Don’t worry if you can’t straighten your leg with this exercise.  If this is the case, bend your leg at the knee and use a resistance band, towel or belt over your foot.

  • Start by lying flat on the floor with your legs stretched out.
  • Breathe in and then exhale whilst bringing one leg up towards your chest. Take hold of the back of the leg with both hands just above the knee and straighten the leg the best you can. 
  • Keep the back pressed to the floor, hips neutral and other leg straight on the floor.  Breathe deeply in and out as you stretch the hamstrings. 
  • Hold for 15-20 seconds a side and then swap legs.

#10. Supine Spinal Twist

This exercise is a fantastic way to stretch the entire spine from the shoulders, all the way down to the abdominals, back, hips and groin.  It strengthens, stretches and relaxes the spine as well as massages the hips and back.

  • Lie down flat on the floor with your arms stretched out to the sides and inline with your shoulders. 
  • Bring one knee up to your chest with the other leg straight and pressed to the floor.
  • Take a deep breath and then exhale into the movement, by floating the knee across to the other side of the body.
  • Look towards the arm on the opposite side to which you are stretching and keep your shoulders pressed down on the floor.  If the shoulders start to come up off the floor then reduce the stretch in the crossed leg.
  • Hold the pose for as long as you like whilst breathing deeply and going further into the stretch.
  • Bring the knee back into the stomach and then repeat on the other side.

The Takeaway

Movement is key to recovery and some exercise is always better than no exercise at all.  If you are experiencing back pain then try to do a little exercise by going for a walk or by doing some light stretches.  However, remember not to overdo it, listen to your body and if you feel any discomfort when doing an exercise then ease off.  If the symptoms persist for longer than two weeks (or the pain is unbearable) then go and see a doctor.

I hope this helps you on your road to recovery.  If you have any questions or comments then please stick them in the box below, I’d love to hear from you.  Thanks!

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World Health Organization Website – Low back pain  Janet K. Freburger,

National Library of Medicine 2019, Pubmed. “The effect of lumbar stabilization and walking exercises on chronic low back pain: A randomized controlled trial”,

National Library of Medicine 2019, “Which specific modes of exercise training are most effective for treating low back pain?” Network meta-analysis,

National Library of Medicine 2020, “Core Stability and Hip Exercises Improve Physical Function and Activity in Patients with Non-Specific Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial”