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Exercises to maintain back health

Once you have gotten through the initial stages of back pain, learning exercises to make your back stronger and more flexible can help you avoid getting pain again. Talk to your doctor and physical therapist about when it is safe to begin strength training and stretching. When you have been given the green light, try the following exercises at least three times per week.

Partial sit-ups

  1. Lie on the floor with your back flat. Bend your knees. Cross your hands over your chest.
  2. Raise your shoulders 3 - 6 inches off of the floor. Exhale on the way up (while your abdominal muscles are contracted/tightened).
  3. Inhale on the way down.
  4. Do this slowly at least 8 - 10 times.

As you get stronger, you can gradually increase the number of repetitions.

Pelvic tilt

  1. Lie on your back, bend your knees, and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Press your lower back into the floor. Tighten your buttocks muscles.
  3. Hold for one second and then relax.

Over time, you can make this exercise harder by holding for 5 seconds or longer. Putting your feet farther away from your body also makes this more difficult.

Low back stretch #1

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and legs together. Keep your arms at your sides.
  2. Slowly roll your knees over to one side.
  3. Hold for 10 - 20 seconds. Repeat to the other side.

Low back stretch #2

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold one knee and gently bring it toward your chest.
  3. Hold for 10 - 20 seconds. Repeat with the other knee.

Low back stretch #3

  1. Facing the floor, support your body with your hands and knees.
  2. Lift and straighten your right hand and left leg at the same time. Tighten your stomach muscles. Keep your back straight.
  3. Hold for 3 seconds. Change sides and repeat. You can do this up to 20 times on each side.


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Review Date: 6/29/2011
Reviewed By: Andrew W. Piasecki, MD, Camden Bone and Joint, LLC, Orthopaedic Surgery/Sports Medicine, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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