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Back on Track: Tailored Exercise Routines to Tackle Your Back Pain

May 24, 2024

Back pain is common and affects millions worldwide. Whether it's lower back pain, upper back pain or the pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the leg known as sciatica, targeted exercises can play a vital role in relieving discomfort and improving overall back health. 

Lower back pain

Poor posture, muscle strain, abnormal pelvic tilt (anterior tilt), which misaligns the hips, and herniated discs, where the cushion between spine bones slips, are common causes of lower back pain. Depending on your condition, an orthopedic specialist may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to alleviate lower back pain.

Lower back pain exercises

  1. Hamstring stretch: Start with a hamstring stretch to improve flexibility in your lower back and relieve muscle tension. Extend one leg out in front of the other to stretch your hamstring muscles. Then, lean forward to feel the stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds on each leg.
  2. Cat-cow stretch: “The cat-cow stretch helps improve the flexibility and mobility of your spine," said PJ Ragone, director of Sports Medicine at Inspira Health. Get on your hands and knees, arch your back like a cat, then dip it down as if mimicking a cow's posture. Repeat this 10 to 15 times.
  3. Bird-dog exercise: This exercise strengthens your core muscles and stabilizes your lower back. Start on your hands and knees, extend one arm and the opposite leg simultaneously, holding for a few seconds, and then switch sides. Repeat about 10 times for each side.
  4. Single-leg exercises: These exercises can build strength and stability in the hip joint. Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward with one leg, lowering your body until both knees are bent at 90-degree angles. Push back to the starting position. Repeat on the other leg for 10-12 repetitions.

“For individuals with lower back pain, stretching and strengthening exercises can help improve flexibility and reduce pain,” said Ragone.

Upper back pain

Upper back pain often stems from poor posture, stress or muscle tension. Incorporating exercises that target your upper back and shoulders can help alleviate pain and improve posture.

Upper back pain exercises

  1. Thoracic extension: Sit or stand up straight and gently extend your upper back by arching it backward. Hold for a few seconds and repeat 10 to 15 times.
  2. Shoulder blade squeezes: “Shoulder blade squeezes strengthen the muscles between the shoulder blades and improve posture,” Ragone explained. While sitting or standing, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat about 15 times.
  3. Wall angels: Stand against a wall with your head, upper back and hips touching the wall. Slowly move your arms up and down, keeping them in contact with the wall. Aim to do this about 10 to 15 times.


Sciatica is a painful condition, often caused by sciatic nerve compression or irritation. Pressure on the nerve results in pain radiating down the leg. Stretching and strengthening exercises can provide relief and improve mobility.

Sciatica exercises 

  1. Piriformis stretch: Begin with a piriformis stretch to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. To do this stretch, lie on your back, cross one leg over the other and gently pull the knee toward your chest. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.
  2. Child's pose: “Child's pose is a great stretch for individuals with sciatica, as it helps stretch the lower back and hips,” said Ragone. Start on your hands and knees, sit back on your heels, and extend your arms forward. Hold for 30 seconds.
  3. Sciatic nerve glide: Sit on the edge of a chair, extend one leg, and flex your foot. Gently lean forward, feeling a stretch along the back of your leg. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times on each leg.

Incorporating these targeted exercise routines into your daily regimen can help alleviate various types of back pain, promoting a healthier back and an improved quality of life. Always consult an orthopedic specialist, health care professional, or physical therapist before starting any exercise routine, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions or concerns.

Ready to take control of your back pain and get back to enjoying life? Schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist today! Our team of experts can help you develop a personalized plan for a stronger, healthier back.

Call us at 1-800-INSPIRA or schedule your appointment today!

Topics: Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation