Simple exercises and stretch routines that can relieve chronic back pain

I've got your Back!

Whether a simple side affect of a sedentary lifestyle, underdeveloped supporting muscles, or caused by way of repetitive motion, chronic back pain is known as one of the most common physical conditions globally and is affecting 1 in 5 adults on a daily basis.

As a firm believer in prevention over cure, physical activity + paying attention to movement and mobility is the best and most effective way to avoid injury, and is an essential component in the management of both severe or chronic back pain. In some cases chronic back pain can be a symptom of an underlying health concern like kidney stones, or acute pancreatitis so it's always important to talk to your health care provider if experiencing sudden and intense pain.

Chronic back pain exercises and stretches:
  • Standing Single Leg March

  • Child's Pose

  • Cat Cow

  • Knee-to-Chest Stretch

  • Piriformis Stretch

  • Seated Spinal Twist

  • Clamshell

  • Pelvic Tilt

  • Sphinx Stretch

  • Bridge Lifts

  • Bird Dog Hip Extension

Note: Be mindful of your body's limits and listen to what feels right. If experiencing severe pain it's always best to avoid movement before consulting with a doctor first

Standing Single Leg March:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart

  2. Bend R knee and lift it toward the chest, then switch to the L leg alternating for 10 reps (each leg completes one full set), hold a railing with one hand if you need the support

  3. Switch to R leg only for 10 reps, then switch L for 10 reps

  4. Go back to alternating legs to finish x10counts

This exercise is a great warmup to any other workout and is designed to increase heart rate and warm up the hip muscles including glutes and hip flexors

Child's Pose:

  1. With hands and knees on the ground, sink back through your hips to rest them on your heels

  2. Hinge at your hips as you fold forward, walking your hands out in front of you.

  3. Rest your belly on your thighs

  4. Extend arms long in front of or alongside your body with palms facing up

  5. Focus on breathing deep and relax any areas of tension or tightness

  6. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute

You can do this pose several times during your stretching routine or it can between each of the other stretches/exercises listed above

Cat Cow:

  1. Come to all fours in a tabletop position (hands directly under shoulders | knees directly under hips)

  2. Press into your hands and the tops of your feet, inhale look up, allowing your belly to fill with air

  3. Exhale, tucking chin to chest and round through the spine

  4. Continue this pattern of movement, moving with each breath

  5. Repeat methodically for up to 1 min

Th e Cat Cow movement will stretch the shoulders, neck, and chest while waking up and strengthening the spine

Knee-to-Chest Stretch:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor

  2. Using both hands, grab the right leg just below the knee cap, interlace your fingers, or stack the palms

  3. Keeping left foot flat on the floor, gently pull right knee up to the chest, press downward until you feel a slight stretch in your lower back

  4. Hold your right knee against your chest for 30–60 seconds, making sure to relax your legs, hips, and lower back

  5. Come back to the starting position

  6. Repeat steps 2–4 with your left leg

  7. Repeat three times for each leg

The Knee-to-Chest stretch will help lengthen the spine and stretch the glutes and surrounding areas

Piriformis Stretch:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor

  2. Place right ankle on top of the left thigh (a figure 4 position), foot flexed

  3. Clasp hands behi left thigh - pull knee into a tabletop position or up toward your chest until you feel a stretch

  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute

  5. Switch sides

The Piriformis muscle is found deep within your buttocks. Stretching it can relieve tension and tightness in the low back

Seated Spinal Twist:

  1. Sit on the floor, both legs straight, feet flexed

  2. Bend left knee bringing foot to the outside of the right thigh

  3. Place right arm on the outside of left thigh

  4. Bring left hand to floor behind you for support.

  5. Starting at the base of your spine, gently twist to the left

  6. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute

  7. Repeat on the other side

This classic stretch increases mobility in the spine and stretches your neck, shoulders, back, hips, glutes, and abs. The pressure fro this stretch also stimulates our internal organs


  1. Lie on your side, with thighs, knees, and feet together, knees and hips bent and pulled in toward chest

  2. Keeping ankles together, tighten abdominal muscles and squeeze outer thigh to lift top knee about 6 inches from the bottom knee, lower back down - repeat x20 counts

  3. Switch sides

  4. Alternate sides until you've complete 3 rounds per side

This exercise will strengthen the glute medius which is designed to support the spine in everyday movement. Weak glutes make the back muscles work harder, which can lead to back pain

Pelvic Tilt:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor

  2. Squeeze abs in tight bringing the navel toward the spine and pressing your back flat against the floor

  3. Breathe steady, holding this position for 10 seconds

  4. Release and repeat

  5. Do 1 to 3 sets, 3 to 5 reps each

The Pelvic Tilt is a simple way to strengthen the abdominal wall. Our abdominals support the spine so having and creating strong abs is important

Sphinx Stretch:

  1. Come to your front body on the floor with elbows directly underneath shoulders, palms down

  2. Bring legs hip distance apart.

  3. Gently engage lower back, glutes, and thighs as you press up lifting your head and chest

  4. Keep lower back and abdominals engaged, breath deep

  5. Press pelvis into the floor

  6. Gaze straight ahead or close your eyes

  7. Hold pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute - repeat

The Sphinx Stretch is a gentle yet active stretch that strengthens glutes, chest, and spine

Bridge Lifts:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent 90 degrees, feet flat

  2. Engage core muscles drawing the navel in toward the spine, press spine into the floor

  3. Squeeze to lift your hips up, while pushing down with your heels

  4. Repeat 2 sets, x10 reps each holding at the top for 10 seconds

The bridge is a beneficial exercise that will help build muscle in the glutes which help support the spine. Research indicates a direct correlation in weak glutes leading to back pain

Bird Dogs Hip Extension:

  1. Come to hands and knees on the floor, hands directly under shoulders, knees directly under hips

  2. Keeping back flat and core muscles engaged, extend left leg and right arm straight out - reach long

  3. Return to starting position

  4. Repeat using opposite leg | opposite arm (right leg, left arm - left leg, right arm)

  5. Alternate completing 10 total reps each side

The bird dog hip extension trains the abdominals to work as a group, instead of in isolation. Over time, a stronger core can decrease back pain

Bottom Line

We use our back for many things during regular day to day activities, therefore spinal health is extremely important for overall health and wellness. Regular movement and stretching are proven ways to help prevent and/or reduce back pain.

#backpain #chronicbackpain #crossfit