Pelvic Tilts for Back Pain

A Simple Move With Important Benefits

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Pelvic tilt exercises can stretch and strengthen your abdominal muscles, and help to relieve sciatica and low back (lumbar) pain. Their benefits are far greater than their complexity: All you do is lie on your back with your knees bent and raise your pelvis.

Pelvic tilts are safe for just about anyone, even if you're pregnant. For your tilts to be as effective as possible, it's helpful to understand which muscles they target, how those muscles may contribute to lumbar pain, and the finer points of performing them.

This article explains the muscles used in pelvic tilt exercises, and why it's important to strengthen them. It gives step-by-step instructions on how to perform a basic pelvic tilt.

Ben Goldstein

Targeting the Core

The core is made up of many different muscles of the front, back, and sides of the torso. When the core is strong, it provides support for the rest of the body, preventing postural imbalances and instability that can contribute to pain and even injury.

By contrast, when core muscles are weak, postural alignment is thrown off and the entire body lacks adequate support.

Pelvic tilt exercises are designed to strengthen some of these core muscles. Research has found that those engaged most are two specific abdominal muscles.One is the multifidus, which extends and rotates the spine.

The other muscle is the deepest of the abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominis, which wraps around the spine to provide stability.

Basic Supine Pelvic Tilt

Pelvic tilt exercises do have a few variants. The simplest, which is performed while supine (lying on your back), is safe for most people, including beginners and those experiencing back pain.

Advanced exercisers who want to really challenge their core muscles can do them while standing with their back against a wall. Women who are in the late stages of pregnancy should do pelvic tilts while on all fours.

To do a basic pelvic tilt:

  1. Lie on the floor (or on a mat on the floor) with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms alongside your torso, palms facing down. The back of your head should be touching the mat and your neck should be aligned with your spine. Allow your back to maintain a natural curve, leaving space between your low back and the mat. You should be able to slide your hand into this space.
  2. Inhale. As you exhale, engage your abdominal muscles, allowing that action to tilt your tailbone upward and close the space between your low back and the mat or floor. You'll feel a gentle stretch of your low back.
  3. Inhale, allowing your spine and pelvis to return to the original position.
  4. Do 5 to 10 reps.

Tip: Release Your Hip Flexors

The hip flexor muscles are located where the tops of the thighs connect to the pelvis at the hip socket. Try to let go of any tension in these muscles while performing pelvic tilts so that the abdominal muscles do all the work of moving the pelvis.

A Word From Verywell

Although simple to do, when practiced regularly pelvic tilts can strengthen your abdominals, ease low back tension and pain (if this is an issue for you), and optimally position your pelvis. Be patient: While some people find quick relief for low back tension with this exercise, it usually takes time to build muscle and alleviate pain.

3 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. Cho HY, Kim EH, Kim J. Effects of the CORE Exercise Program on Pain and Active Range of Motion in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain. J Phys Ther Sci. 2014;26(8):1237-40. doi:10.1589/jpts.26.1237

  2. Takaki S, Kaneoka K, Okubo Y, Otsuka S, Tatsumura M, Shiina I, et al. Analysis of muscle activity during active pelvic tilting in sagittal plane. Phys Ther Res. 2016 Nov 29;19(1):50-57. doi:10.1298/ptr.e9900.

  3. National Health Service. Lower Back Pain Exercises.

Additional Reading

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.