Back Injury Rehabilitation Program

Approximately eight out of 10 people will experience the symptoms of back pain at least one time in their life. Bed rest used to be recommended immediately after a back injury, however, this is no longer the case. Today's experts recommend that you resume your daily activities as soon as possible after an injury. As soon as you can tolerate it, gentle stretching and strengthening of the back muscles are recommended to recover from a back injury.

Woman doing yoga
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A comprehensive back rehabilitation program should consist of both stretching as well as strengthening exercises. The abdominal muscles should be included as they play an important role in back rehabilitation by assisting in the stabilization of the spine. The following exercises should be included to comprise a well rounded back rehabilitation program.

Be sure to check with your doctor before starting this, or any other, exercise program for your spine to be sure it is safe to do so.

Stretches For Your Low Back

Back Extension:

  1. Lie on your stomach
  2. Prop yourself up on your elbows extending your back
  3. Start straightening your elbows, further extending your back
  4. Continue straightening your elbows until a gentle stretch is felt
  5. Hold for 15 seconds
  6. Return to the starting position
  7. Repeat 10 more times

Cat Stretch:

  1. Get down on the floor on your hands and knees
  2. Push your back up towards the ceiling (like a cat arching it's back)
  3. Continue arching until you feel a gentle stretch in your back
  4. Hold for 15 seconds
  5. Return to the starting position
  6. Repeat 10 more times

Hip Rolls:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor 
  2. Turn your head to the left as you relax and let your knees fall down to the floor on the right side by rotating your trunk
  3. Hold for a count of five
  4. Return to starting position
  5. Turn your head to the right as you relax and let your knees fall down to the floor on the left side by rotating your trunk
  6. Hold for a count of five
  7. Repeat 10 more times

Strengthening Exercises for Your Low Back

Core Exercise:

  1. Position yourself on all fours, with your hands and legs supporting you on the floor
  2. Slowly extend your left leg straight behind you
  3. Make sure that your back remains straight and parallel to the floor
  4. Hold this position for five to 10 seconds
  5. Repeat using the opposite leg

Straight Leg Raises:

  1. Lie on your back
  2. Bend your knees to 15 degrees
  3. Contract your abdominal muscles to lift your feet off the floor in an arc-like motion above your head
  4. Slowly (in the same arc-like motion) return your legs/feet to the floor
  5. Repeat 10 more times
  6. Repeat the exercise on your stomach as the Prone Straight Leg Raise

Sit Ups:

  1. Lie on your back
  2. Bend your knees to a comfortable position
  3. Lock your fingers behind your head
  4. Curl your head, shoulders, upper and lower back off the floor — no more than six inches
  5. Hold this position for five seconds
  6. Slowly return to starting position
  7. Repeat 10 more times

As always, discuss starting any rehabilitation program with your physician. If any activity causes more pain, stop the exercise immediately. The exercises should be performed three times per day. Once you no longer have back pain, once daily exercises should be performed to prevent future problems with your low back.

If you have back pain or sciatica, you may benefit from working with your physical therapist to treat your condition.Your physical therapist can show you which exercises to do if your pain is acute, and he or she can help you progress properly through your back exercises. Your physical therapist can also tell you what to STOP doing if you have low back pain.

A Word From Verywell

Keeping your spine healthy is important to maintaining maximal functional mobility. Check with your doctor and PT, and then get started on a comprehensive back exercise program tailored to your needs.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. Back pain. Updated December 20, 2019.

  2. Vaičienė G, Berškienė K, Slapsinskaite A, Mauricienė V, Razon S. Not only static: stabilization manoeuvres in dynamic exercises - A pilot study. PLoS ONE. 2018;13(8):e0201017. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0201017

  3. Bernstein IA, Malik Q, Carville S, Ward S. Low back pain and sciatica: summary of NICE guidance. BMJ. 2017;356:i6748. doi:10.1136/bmj.i6748