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5 Best Lower Back Pain Exercises

Posted 1/11/2016 by UHBlog

Taking care of your back is important at any age. We can help.

12 Best Lower Back Pain Exercises

If you have lower back pain, you aren't alone. As many as eight out of 10 people experience some type of back pain during their lives. In fact, more than half of all seniors struggle with back problems.

Poor posture due to aging and lack of mobility often plays a major role in back-related aches and pains, says physical therapist Nebojsa (Neb) Mrkajic, MSPT. Many times, chronic back pain develops, with the pain lasting three months or more.

“This chronic pain only gets worse with the progression of arthritis and aging, as well as with deterioration of muscle and core strength,” he says. “To protect your back as you get older, you need to be active. And with any activity, knowing how to maintain good posture when sitting – as well as moving – is key.”

To avoid or lessen lower back problems, Mrkajic recommends strengthening, flexibility and lumbar extension exercises. Additionally, be sure to sleep in a bed to ensure that your lower back feels good in the morning.

“A lot of people like to sleep in recliners,” he says. “That’s not always the best solution, even though it’s initially comfortable. A recliner is not a substitute for the bed.” Instead, Mrkajic recommends sleeping in a bed with a firm mattress and a pillow that offers good support.

If you're experiencing back pain, your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist for exercises specific to your needs. Or, if you want to work on keeping your back healthy, here are five exercises to try at home:

  1. Back Extension. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
    • Lie face down on a bed or the floor and with palms facing downward, slowly raise your head while arching your back.
    • Push yourself up using your elbows. Be sure your hips remain square to the floor during the exercise.
  2. Bent Knee Raise. Repeat 10 times on each side.
    • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
    • Raise each knee, one at a time, to your chest and hold for five seconds before lowering your foot to the floor.
    • Be sure to tighten your abs during the exercise.
  3. Curl Ups.
    • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms behind your head for support.
    • Lift your shoulders off the ground.
    • Don't pull your neck or try to lift too high.
  4. Eccentric leg raise. Repeat 10 times for each leg.
    • Keep your spine flat against the floor throughout the exercise to avoid arching your back.
    • As you tighten your abdominal muscles, gently pull your right knee to your chest. Make sure your left leg stays on the floor.
    • Next, straighten your leg before allowing it to gently fall back to the floor.
    • Repeat on the opposite leg.
  5. Cat and camel. Repeat 10 times.
    • Get on your hands and knees, either on a bed or the floor.
    • With your back in a neutral "tabletop" position, round your back up while lowering your head. Your form should resemble a cat arching its back.
    • Next, relax your back to form a “valley” between the “two humps of a camel.”
    • If your wrists hurt, lower onto your elbows. If you're exercising on floor, kneel on a mat or towel.

In addition to back-related exercises, Mrkajic recommends activities like riding a stationary bike, walking and water therapy, if you have access to a pool, to keep your back healthy.

Nebojsa (Neb) Mrkajic, MSPT, is a physical therapist at UH Bedford Medical Center Rehabilitation Services. You can request an appointment with Mrkajic or any other University Hospitals health care provider online.

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