top of page

The 3 BEST Exercises For Back Pain Taught By A Physical Therapist

It's important for us to start with a huge DISCLAIMER here. Please see a physician before starting any kind of exercise regimen. What I am listing below is a very general outline of what usually works for patients after a thorough evaluation to confirm the cause of their symptoms. It may not work for everyone or every case and you should seek a formal evaluation and assessment of your concerns. In general, any time you feel numbness and/or tingling in your face, head or jaw, down your arms, or have an upset stomach, abnormal bowel/bladder movements, please discontinue the exercise and seek professional advice.


Back pain is oh so common. You sit too long, your back hurts. Lift something too heavy, your back hurts. Wear bad shoes on a long walk, your back hurts. Fall asleep in your favorite recliner in a weird position, aaaaand your back hurts. A million different things we do during the day and hurt or injure our backs. And it makes sense when you remember that your spine is what keeps you upright and houses the vast majority of your nerves. Irritate it and your body is going to warn you quickly. Your body is always going to protect the important things first so back pain often takes precedent in your mind.

Today we are going to look at a few exercises that we give out to our patients with back pain. Of course, as we mentioned, there are so many things that can cause it. These exercises may not work for everyone. There are some people who should not even attempt these exercises, depending on what's going on in their bodies. So it's really important to get checked out before trying any of the exercises below. The last thing you'd want is to make your back pain worse!

With that being said, there are a few exercises that work on MOST of the patients here at Rehab and Revive. We've found huge success in the exercises we are sharing and want them out there so people have resources in times of pain and injury. And with that being said, here are our favorite back pain exercises!

1. Lumbar Decompression- the goal of this exercise is to do exactly what the name says: decompress your lumbar spine. Gravity got you down? We have forces pushing down on us ALL THE TIME. Then add a heavy bag or carrying your child around and your poor spine can get so compressed. When there's less space between the vertebrae, your disks and nerves can get cramped, irritated and angry. This exercise uses light traction to get more space for your spine. You can do this with an exercise ball or on the edge of your bed or couch. Just be sure that, whatever you use, you are doing it safely.

2. Arch and Sag - the purpose of this exercise is 1. awareness. If we are not aware of how we are moving or where we might be limited, we do not know what we are doing to injure ourselves. It's always important to get your brain/body connection in sync. Take a few minutes to get in tune with your body, feel where you may have tightness or blocks and work them out with simple, gentle motions. But this exercise is also great for 2. lubrication of the joints in the spine. Gently moving the vertebrae and getting some space helps lubricate the joints. Think of it like adding WD-40 to a door and then swinging it open and closed a few times to make sure the oil really seeps into the hinges. That's the essence of what arch and sag does for back pain!

3. Lift Off - the last two exercises were geared toward mobilizing the spine. But with great mobility can come great danger if you can't control it. Having range of motion is great, but if your muscles aren't ready to control and contain it, that increased mobility can actually end up being a problem. The lift off exercise is geared toward stability in the spine. It activates muscles called the multifidi that are responsible for holding your spine in place. They are tiny muscles that can be hard to isolate with an exercise, but we've cracked the code. We like having patients finish off with this exercise so that the multifidi muscles are strengthened, activated and ready to stabilize that spine.

Hopefully, these exercises are just the ticket for your back pain. We have tons of exercises for back pain on our Youtube channel, but these are just our three favorite and most commonly used ones. So if these don't work for you, there may still be other solutions! Seek a physical therapist or go to your primary care doctor and they may be able to more accurately assess what's going on with you back!

Remember, we can and we will get better together!

Dr. Justin C. Lin

bottom of page