Exercises for Your Lower Back

If you have mild to moderate low back pain or sciatica, you can see a physical therapist, who will be able to assess your condition and prescribe exercises to help improve your mobility and decrease your pain.

Lower back pain affects nearly everyone at one time or another. Studies indicate that postural awareness and exercise are two of the most important things you can do to manage lower back pain. By keeping proper posture and good mobility and strength in your lower back, you can also help prevent lower back pain from occurring in the first place or returning after it has resolved.

A woman doing a yoga pose
Sporrer / Rupp / Cultura / Getty Images

If you have lower back pain that's severe, limits your movement, or lasts more than a few weeks, you need to visit your doctor, physical therapist, or another healthcare provider.

Easy Exercises

Here are a few simple exercises to try, but check in with your healthcare provider before you start to be sure that each type of exercise is safe for your specific condition:

  1. Prone lying: Simply lie down on your stomach and rest. Stay in this position for 1-2 minutes and breathe slowly and deeply. After a few minutes in this position, move on to the next exercise.
  2. Prone prop-ups: While on your stomach, prop yourself up onto your elbows. Stay in this position for 1-2 minutes and breathe slowly and deeply in this position. Once this position becomes comfortable, move on to the next exercise.
  3. Press-ups: While lying on your stomach, put your hands flat on the floor under your shoulders, like you are going to start a push-up. Press your shoulders up and let your hips and low back relax. Your hips should remain in contact with the floor as you press up. Hold the end position for 1-2 seconds and return fully to the starting position. Perform 10 repetitions. Bonus exercise: the Prone Press Up with Hips Off Center.
  4. Pelvic tilt: While lying on your back, roll your pelvis backward and press your low back flat into the floor. You should feel your abdominal and buttock muscles tighten as you perform this. Hold the position for 1-2 seconds, and slowly relax back to the starting position. Perform 10 repetitions.
  5. Supine lumbar flexion: Some conditions, like lumbar spinal stenosis, typically require lumbar flexion (forward bending) to get better. A safe way to progress lumbar flexion is by starting supine, then moving on to seated flexion, and finally lumbar flexion in standing.

These exercises should be performed three to four times per day. Be sure to monitor your symptoms while exercising, and stop if you feel any increase in pain.

If you have leg pain coming from your back, watch for the centralization phenomenon. This means that pain in an arm, leg, or buttock suddenly shifts to a spot closer to the spine with spine movement. It is a good sign that you are doing the right exercise for your condition. 

When your pain has subsided, perform the exercises once per day to help maintain a healthy spine and to help prevent future low back pain.


The most common cause of low back pain is poor sitting posture. It is very important to maintain proper sitting posture if you have low back pain. Use a small pillow or towel roll in the small of your back to help support your spine while sitting. Maintaining proper posture is also a great way to prevent low back pain in the future.

Postural awareness can also be improved by performing the slouch-overcorrect exercise or by using innovative technology like the TruPosture Smart Shirt. By learning to attain and maintain proper posture, you can limit stressors to your back and potentially prevent back pain.

A Word From Verywell

If you are feeling low back pain, a self-care plan to manage the pain and restore mobility is essential. By keeping your spine mobile and strong and by maintaining good posture, you may be able to quickly return to your normal activities and lifestyle.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gordon R, Bloxham S. A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Non-Specific Chronic Low Back PainHealthcare (Basel). 2016;4(2):22. Published 2016 Apr 25. doi:10.3390/healthcare4020022

  2. Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, Mclean RM, Forciea MA. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of PhysiciansAnnals of Internal Medicine. 2017;166(7):514. doi:10.7326/m16-2367

  3. Ojoawo AO, Hassan MA, Olaogun MOB, Johnson EO, Mbada CE. Comparative effectiveness of two stabilization exercise positions on pain and functional disability of patients with low back painJ Exerc Rehabil. 2017;13(3):363–371. Published 2017 Jun 30. doi:10.12965//jer.1734932.466

  4. Surkitt LD, Ford JJ, Hahne AJ, Pizzari T, Mcmeeken JM. Efficacy of Directional Preference Management for Low Back Pain: A Systematic ReviewPhysical Therapy. 2012;92(5):652-665. doi:10.2522/ptj.20100251

  5. Paolucci T, Attanasi C, Cecchini W, Marazzi A, Capobianco SV, Santilli V. Chronic low back pain and postural rehabilitation exercise: a literature reviewJ Pain Res. 2018;12:95–107. Published 2018 Dec 20. doi:10.2147/JPR.S171729

  6. Cramer H, Mehling WE, Saha FJ, Dobos G, Lauche R. Postural awareness and its relation to pain: validation of an innovative instrument measuring awareness of body posture in patients with chronic painBMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2018;19(1):109. Published 2018 Apr 6. doi:10.1186/s12891-018-2031-9

Additional Reading
  • Macedo, LG, etal. Effect of Motor Control Exercises Versus Graded Activity in Patients With Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Physical Therapy.

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.