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Exercises for low back pain - second stage

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Most exercises for your spine either strengthen or stretch the muscles and ligaments of your pelvis, belly, and spine.

The goal is for you to function as well as possible with little or no pain, and to prevent future injuries to your spine. To do this, your physical therapist will teach you proper techniques to move your spine, for either everyday tasks or sports activities.

Before doing exercises, have your doctor or physical therapist make sure you are doing them properly. If you have pain during or after an exercise, the way you are doing the exercise may need to be changed.

If any exercise produces new pain or increases your pain, discontinue the exercise and talk with your physical therapist or doctor.

Knee to chest - single

  1. Lie on your back with both knees bent a little.
  2. Place both hands behind one knee and gently bring your knee up to your chest.
  3. The small of your back should be pressing into the floor.
  4. Hold for 20 seconds.
  5. Slowly lower the leg back down.
  6. Repeat 5 times on each side.

Hamstring stretch

  1. Lie on your back with both knees bent a little.
  2. Place both hands behind one knee and bring the leg up.
  3. Keeping your back muscles relaxed.
  4. Slowly straighten your knee until you feel a stretch.
  5. Hold 20 seconds and then slowly bring your leg down.
  6. Repeat 5 times on each side.

Backstretch/press up back extension

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Place your hands on each side at chest level, palms flat on the floor.
  3. Use your arms to push your upper body slowly up off the floor.
  4. Keep your back straight when you push up.
  5. Hold for 5 seconds, then slowly lower yourself to the floor.
  6. During the exercise, let your back relax and sag.
  7. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Lumbar stabilization with large ball (lying on the floor #1)

  1. Lie flat on the floor. Your knees should be bent with your calves resting on the top of the ball.
  2. Lay your arms by your side.
  3. Slowly raise one arm over your head, then slowly lower it.
  4. Switch back and forth between sides.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Lumbar stabilization with large ball (lying on the floor #2)

  1. Lie flat on the floor. Your knees should be bent with your calves resting on the top of the ball.
  2. Lay your arms by your side.
  3. Slowly straighten one knee, then slowly lower it.
  4. Switch back and forth between sides.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Lumbar stabilization with large ball (lying on the floor #3)

  1. Lie flat on the floor. Your knees should be bent with your calves resting on the top of the ball.
  2. Lay your arms by your side.
  3. Slowly straighten one knee and raise the opposite arm over your head.
  4. Switch back and forth between sides.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Lumbar stabilization with large ball (sitting #1)

  1. Sit on the ball with your feet resting on the floor. (Both hips and knees should be bent at a right angle.)
  2. Slowly raise one arm over your head, then lower it.
  3. Switch back and forth between sides.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

NOTE: When sitting on an exercise ball, try to sit up straight, your chest should be up, your shoulder blades rotated down and back, your head over your shoulder. Stay in neutral position.

Lumbar stabilization with large ball (sitting #2)

  1. Sit on the ball with your feet resting on the floor. (Both hips and knees should be bent at a right angle.)
  2. Slowly raise one heel, then lower it.
  3. Switch back and forth between sides.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

NOTE: When sitting on an exercise ball, try to sit up straight, your chest should be up, your shoulder blades rotated down and back, your head over your shoulder. Stay in neutral position.

Lumbar stabilization with large ball (sitting #3)

  1. Sit on the ball with your feet resting on the floor. (Both hips and knees should be bent at a right angle.)
  2. Slowly raise one heel while also raising the opposite arm.
  3. Switch back and forth between sides.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

NOTE: When sitting on an exercise ball, try to sit up straight, your chest should be up, your shoulder blades rotated down and back, your head over your shoulder. Stay in neutral position.

Lumbar stabilization with large ball (sitting #4)/leg raise

  1. Sit on the ball with your feet resting on the floor. (Both hips and knees should be bent at a right angle.)
  2. Place your hands on your hip bones with your toes pointing outward.
  3. Slowly raise 1 foot off the ground while straightening your leg.
  4. Switch back and forth between sides.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

NOTE: When sitting on an exercise ball, try to sit up straight, your chest should be up, your shoulder blades rotated down and back, your head over your shoulder. Stay in neutral position.

Lumbar stabilization with large ball (standing #1)

  1. Stand with the ball between your lower back and the wall.
  2. Your feet should be hip width apart, toes pointing straightforward.
  3. Slowly bend your knee, lowering yourself.
  4. Only squat down as far as your therapist recommended.
  5. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

NOTE: Keep your back parallel to the wall during this exercise. If your knees move out past your toes, stand further from the wall.

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Review Date: 4/3/2018

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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