Back pain exercises

Effective exercises with instructions

Back pain exercises

Keep moving to stay fit - the 2 x 8 of effective back exercises

Strong muscles around the spinal column protect it against wear and tear, muscular tension and pain. Back pain can be countered by regular physical exercise at a back school, with special exercises for the spine and gentle sports such as swimming or power walking.

The exercise programme has been conceived so that a complete set of exercises to strengthen and stretch your back can be completed in about 20 minutes. It would be ideal if you could go through this programme two or three times a week. Important: please ask your doctor whether any of the exercises are unsuitable for you.

Strengthening exercises

Head nodding

Head nodding: Exercise to strengthen the neck muscles

Starting position:

  • Sit on a chair with your knees bent at about 90°.
  • Lean forward with your upper body, keeping your back straight.
  • Support your elbows on your thighs with your elbows bent at about 90°.
  • Stretch the exerciser around the back of your head in front of your ears with modified tension.
  • Hold the ends of the exerciser tightly with your left and right hands.

Exercise:

  • Lift your head upwards with small movements against the tension of the exerciser.

Frequency:

  • 2 sets x 10-15 repetitions
  • Vary the resistance by changing the length of the band
  • Select a resistance that allows you to do 10-15 repetitions easily
  • Increase the resistance after the first couple of weeks of getting used to the exercise
  • 30 seconds rest in between sets

Please note:

  • keep your back straight
  • head and neck straight
  • small movements

Shoulder pulls

Shoulder pulls: Exercise to strengthen the upper back and posterior shoulder muscles

Starting position:

  • Sit on a chair with your knees bent at about 90°.
  • Thread the exerciser around the handle of the closed door (or alternatively around another object at door handle height that doesn‘t give way) and grasp both ends of the exerciser firmly, holding one end in each hand.
  • For a firm hold, it is best if you loop the ends of the exerciser around your wrists.
  • Stretch the exerciser with modified tension.
  • Keep your arms and the exerciser in a horizontal line.

Exercise:

  • Pull your elbow horizontally backwards against the tension of the exerciser, thereby moving the strap and your arms in a straight line.

Frequency:

  • 2 sets x 10-15 repetitions
  • Vary the resistance by changing the length of the band
  • Select a resistance that allows you to do 10-15 repetitions easily
  • Increase the resistance after the first couple of weeks of getting used to the exercise
  • 30 seconds rest in between sets

Please note:

  • keep your back straight
  • tense your abdominal muscles
  • move the strap and your arms in a straight line
  • pull your shoulder blades together (don‘t just bend your arms)

Hip pulls

Hip pulls: Exercise to strengthen the back muscles / the large back muscle

Starting position:

  • Sit on a chair with your knees bent at about 90°.
  • Thread the exerciser around the handle of the closed door (or alternatively around another object at door handle height that doesn‘t give way) and grasp both ends of the exerciser firmly, holding one end in each hand.
  • For a firm hold, it is best if you loop the ends of the exerciser around your wrists.
  • Stretch the exerciser with modified tension.
  • Keep your arms straight and pointing slightly downwards.

Exercise:

  • Pull your elbows horizontally backwards close to your body against the tension of the exerciser.
  • Pull your hands towards your hips.

Frequency:

  • 2 sets x 10-15 repetitions
  • Vary the resistance by changing the length of the band
  • Select a resistance that allows you to do 10-15 repetitions easily
  • Increase the resistance after the first couple of weeks of getting used to the exercise
  • 30 seconds rest in between sets

Please note:

  • keep your back straight
  • tense your abdominal muscles
  • hold your elbows in tightly
  • pull your hands towards your hips

Trunk bends

Trunk bends: Exercise to strengthen the lower back muscles

Starting position:

  • Stand on a firm surface with your feet slightly apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Grasp both ends of the exerciser firmly, holding one end in each hand.
  • Now stand with both feet on the exerciser.
  • Lean your upper body forwards with your back straight.
  • Stretch the exerciser with modified tension.
  • Keep your arms straight.

Exercise:

  • Pull the exerciser vertically upwards.
  • Keep your back straight and only straighten up your upper body.
  • Keep your legs in the starting position, do not move them.

Frequency:

  • 2 sets x 10-15 repetitions
  • Vary the resistance by changing the length of the band
  • Select a resistance that allows you to do 10-15 repetitions easily
  • Increase the resistance after the first couple of weeks of getting used to the exercise
  • 30 seconds rest in between sets

Please note:

  • keep your back straight
  • tense your abdominal muscles
  • knees slightly bent
  • arms held out straight

Leg raises

Leg raises: Exercise to strengthen the buttock muscles

Starting position:

  • Kneel down on a firm surface.
  • Keep your knees together.
  • Lean your upper body forwards, keeping your back straight, and support yourself on your elbows.
  • Grasp both ends of the exerciser firmly, holding one end in each hand.
  • Stretch the exerciser around one foot with modified tension.

Exercise:

  • Stretch your leg diagonally backwards against the tension of the exerciser until your leg, back and neck are in a straight line.
  • Then bring your leg back to the starting position.

Frequency:

  • 2 sets x 10-15 repetitions
  • Vary the resistance by changing the length of the band
  • Select a resistance that allows you to do 10-15 repetitions easily
  • Increase the resistance after the first couple of weeks of getting used to the exercise
  • 30 seconds rest in between sets

Please note:

  • tense your abdominal muscles
  • do not bend your upper body forwards or backwards
  • keep your knees slightly bent

Side pulls

Side pulls: Exercise to strengthen the lateral trunk muscles

Starting position:

  • Stand on a firm surface with your feet apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Hold both ends of the exerciser firmly in your right hand.
  • Bend your upper body to the side with your back straight.
  • Now stand with your right foot in the large exerciser loop.
  • Stretch the exerciser with modified tension.
  • Keep your arms straight.

Exercise:

  • Pull the exerciser vertically upwards.
  • Keeping your back straight, straighten your upper body and lean over to the other side.

Frequency:

  • 2 sets x 10-15 repetitions
  • Vary the resistance by changing the length of the band
  • Select a resistance that allows you to do 10-15 repetitions easily
  • Increase the resistance after the first couple of weeks of getting used to the exercise
  • 30 seconds rest in between sets

Please note:

  • keep your back straight
  • tense your abdominal muscles
  • neck, back and leg in a straight line

Sit-ups

Sit-ups: Exercise to strengthen the upper abdominal muscle

Starting position:

  • Bend your knees to about 90° with your legs slightly apart.
  • Press your lower back down against the floor.
  • Keep your elbows by your side and your hands on your chest, not your neck.
  • Rest your head on the floor.

Exercise:

  • Lift your head, shoulders and chest upwards.
  • Keep your lower back pressed against the floor.

Frequency:

  • 2 sets x 10-15 repetitions
  • 30 seconds rest in between sets

Please note:

  • press your lower back against the floor

Leg lifts

Leg lifts: Exercise to strengthen the lower abdominal muscles and the hip flexors

Starting position:

  • Lie on your back on a firm surface.
  • Bend your knees to about 90° with your legs slightly apart.
  • Press your lower back down against the floor.
  • Lay your arms on the floor by your body.
  • Rest your head on the floor.

Exercise:

  • Lift your legs up until the angle between your upper body and thighs is about 90°.
  • The angle at the knee remains unchanged.
  • Keep your lower back pressed against the floor.

Frequency:

  • 2 sets x 10-15 repetitions
  • 30 seconds rest in between sets

Please note:

  • press your lower back against the floor
  • perhaps lay a pillow under your head

Stretching exercises

Head pulls

Head pulls: Exercise to stretch the lateral neck muscles

Starting position:

  • Stand on a firm surface with your feet slightly apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Pass your left or right hand over the top of your head and hold your head above the ear.
  • Keep your arm on the same plane as the body.

Exercise:

  • Pull your head over to the same side as the arm.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Keep your legs in the starting position, do not move them.
  • You will feel the stretch in the neck muscles.
  • You can increase the stretch by pushing the other arm towards the floor.

Frequency:

  • 1 time on each side, hold for 10-15 seconds

Please note:

  • keep your upper body upright
  • with your head looking forwards
  • knees slightly bent
  • pull your head to the side with your hand
  • push your other arm towards the floor

Head presses

Head presses: Exercise to stretch the neck muscles

Starting position:

  • Stand on a firm surface with your feet slightly apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Clasp your hands together behind your head with your elbows pointing forwards.

Exercise:

  • Press your head forwards with your hands.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Keep your legs in the starting position, do not move them.
  • You will feel the stretch in the neck muscles.

Frequency:

  • 1 time on each side, hold for 10-15 seconds

Please note:

  • back straight
  • knees slightly bent

Hip tilt

Hip tilt: Exercise to stretch the groin region and the hip flexors

Starting position:

  • Stand on a firm surface with your legs slightly apart.
  • Hold your arms straight out in front of you.

Exercise:

  • Keep your upper body and legs straight and tilt or push your pelvis forwards.
  • You will feel the stretch in your groin.
  • You can increase the stretch in your groin region by keeping your legs straight and turning your pelvis (not your upper body!) slightly further to the left or the right.

Frequency:

  • 1 time on each side, hold for 10-15 seconds

Please note:

  • pelvis tilts / is pushed forwards

Trunk pulls

Trunk pulls: Exercise to stretch the lateral trunk muscles

Starting position:

  • Stand on a firm surface with your feet slightly apart and knees bent.
  • Keep your back and head straight.
  • With your left hand, hold a door handle of a closed door (or alternatively another object).
  • Place your right hand or right forearm on your right thigh.

Exercise:

  • Lean forward with your upper body.
  • Keep your arm, neck and back in an almost straight line.
  • Turn your pelvis slightly to the right and push your upper body slightly to the left (like leaning into a curve).
  • You will feel the stretch running from your shoulder down your whole side to the pelvis.

Frequency:

  • 1 time on each side, hold for 10-15 seconds

Please note:

  • straight back
  • legs bent
  • arms, neck and back in an almost straight line
  • pelvis turned slightly to the right and upper body pushed slightly to the left (like leaning into a curve)

Forward bending

Forward bending: Exercise to stretch the lower back muscles

Starting position:

  • Sit down on a firm surface.
  • Bend your legs slightly keeping your knees a little apart.
  • Keep your back, neck and head straight.
  • Place your hands on your knees.

Exercise:

  • Now lean forwards while keeping your back straight.
  • Do not bend your neck or upper back.
  • Move your stretched arms towards the tips of your toes.
  • You will feel the stretch in your lower back.

Frequency:

  • 1 time on each side, hold for 10-15 seconds

Please note:

  • keep your back straight when leaning forward (do not bend your neck or upper back)
  • legs bent

Lower body twisting

Lower body twisting: Exercise to stretch the lower and lateral back and buttock muscles

Starting position:

  • Lie on your back on a firm surface.
  • Straighten your right leg, bend your left leg, lay your left foot on your right knee.
  • Lay your outstretched left arm on the floor, place your right hand on your left thigh.

Exercise:

  • Now move the bent leg over the straight one.
  • As you do so, twist your body from the chest down to the right.
  • Your left arm remains the floor, your chest does not twist, your head looks in the opposite direction.
  • You will feel the stretch in the lower/lateral back muscles and in your bottom.

Frequency:

  • 1 time on each side, hold for 10-15 seconds

Please note:

  • arm stays on the floor
  • head turns to the opposite side

Leg pulls

Leg pulls: Exercise to stretch the buttock muscles

Starting position:

  • Lie on your back on a firm surface, lay your arms down next to your body.
  • Press your lower back down against the floor.
  • Bend your right knee to an angle of about 90°.
  • Bend your left knee and lay your ankle on the right leg below the knee.

Exercise:

  • Now hold your right leg below the kneecap.
  • Pass your left hand between both legs and grasp it with your right hand around the right leg.
  • Now pull your right calf towards your face.
  • You will feel the stretch in your buttock muscles.

Frequency:

  • 1 time on each side, hold for 10-15 seconds

Please note:

  • press your lower back against the floor

Shoulder pulls

Shoulder pulls: Exercise to stretch the upper back and shoulder muscles

Starting position:

  • Sit on a chair with your knees bent at about 90°.
  • Keep your back and head straight.
  • With your left hand hold the handle of a closed door (or alternatively another object at door handle heigh that doesn‘t give way).
  • Grasp the wrist of the outstretched arm with your right hand.

Exercise:

  • Pull your upper back / shoulder blade backwards.
  • Keep your neck relaxed.
  • You will feel the stretch in your back and shoulders.
  • You can increase the stretch by pushing your right hand further forwards.

Frequency:

  • 1 time on each side, hold for 10-15 seconds

Please note:

  • keep your back straight
  • arm stretched
  • pull your upper back/shoulder blade back

Guide to back treatment

Diagnosis & treatment

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Types, causes and treatment of back pain

Back pain

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