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Back Pain Exercises Recommended By Physiotherapists For Relieving Pain & Preventing Injury


Posted by Dr. Scott Wilson | 01-Jul-2022

  • Almost everyone will experience back pain at some point in their life because back pain can be caused by accidents, work or sports injuries, aging or congenital conditions.
  • Even if your back pain is short-term in nature, it can still interfere with the performance of daily activities, contribute to stress, anxiety, or depression and adversely affect your quality of life. 
  • Proper back pain exercises and treatment can relieve and even prevent back pain. 

Back pain is a very common condition that affects almost everyone at some point in their life. Sadly, this means that if you haven’t already experienced back pain, there’s a good chance that you will at some point in the future. This is because back pain has a variety of causes including arthritis, injury, ruptured discs, poor posture, excessive weight, and even the general degradation that goes with the passage of time.

Physiotherapist Recommend Back Pain Exercises for Relieving Pain

While the likelihood of experiencing back pain may be high, the good news is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be debilitating. There are a variety of exercises that can reduce pain and  discomfort and help avoid the need for medications or more invasive interventions. However, even though exercise is a great way to overcome both upper and lower back pain, not all exercises are beneficial. In fact, some exercises can actually aggravate back pain and should be avoided altogether. As highly trained health professionals. Physiotherapists are experienced in working with patients to help relieve back pain. Here are three key Physiotherapist recommended exercises that can help with relieving back pain. 

1. Quadruped T-Spine Rotation

While there are several spinal rotation exercises, the Quadruped T-Spine Rotation is commonly recommended. Here’s how to perform this rotation:

  • Get on all fours (quadruped position) with your knees below your hips and hands below your shoulders
  • Place one hand on the back of your neck while the other hand remains in the initial position
  • Keep the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical portions of your spine aligned while slowly rotating your body to bring the elbow of the arm behind your neck towards the wrist of the hand that is on the floor
  • Slowly reverse the motion and rotate your body to bring your elbow away from your wrist
  • Steadily, try to twist your body as far as possible as you move your elbow upward
  • Similarly bring the other hand behind your neck and repeat the same steps

2. Piriformis Muscle Stretches

Piriformis stretching exercises can help significantly decrease the painful symptoms along the sciatic nerve and return your range of motion. It’s recommended that piriformis stretches be held for 5 seconds to start, and increased to 30 seconds. They should be repeated 3 times every day. Here’s how to perform the Piriformis Stretch:

  • Lie on your back, bend both your knees and keep both your feet flat on the floor
  • Pull your right knee up to your chest
  • Hold your knee with your left hand and slowly pull it towards your left shoulder and hold the position
  • Return to the initial position and then repeat for the other side

3. Cat-Cow Stretch

The Cat-Cow is another stretching exercise usually recommended by Physiotherapists for those suffering from lower back pain. It should be done for 5 minutes and is useful for both back and neck. Here’s how to perform the Cat-Cow Stretch:

  • Similar to the spinal rotation exercise, begin with your hands and knees on the floor (quadruped position)
  • Make sure your knees are under your hips and your wrists are under your shoulders
  • Take a deep breath, slowly arch your back, and lift your head and tailbone 
  • As you exhale, push your spine up, pull your pull in your stomach while tucking your tailbone in, and tuck your chin toward your chest
  • Continue taking deep breaths while repeating these stretches 

Physiotherapist Recommend Back Pain Exercises for Preventing Pain or Injury

As mentioned above, the weakening of muscles and the wear & tear that goes with aging is a key cause of back pain. This is why Physiotherapists recommend exercise as a means to strengthen back and core muscles and increase flexibility to help prevent back pain and guard against injury. Here are three key Physiotherapist recommended exercises that can help with preventing back pain.

1. Draw-In Maneuvers

This exercise is a core stabilization technique Physiotherapists recommend to prevent back injury. It’s one of the best exercises for spinal stability, as it gets your transverse abdominis and multifidus muscles to contract together. Here’s how to perform the Draw-In Maneuver:

  • Lie back on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat and arms by your sides
  • Breathe out and pull your belly button inward, tightening your abdominal muscles and while keeping your hips still
  • Hold the position for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times daily

2. Pelvic Tilt Exercise

The pelvic tilt exercise can loosen up tight back muscles and help keep them flexible. Here’s how to perform the Pelvic Tilt Exercise:

  • Lie on your back and keep both your knees bent with your feet on the floor
  • Flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles
  • Push your pelvis up slightly and hold for up to 10 seconds and repeat 

3. Superman Stretch

This exercise is great for people who have jobs that require them to sit for long hours. The superman stretch can improve posture and strengthen the extensors. Here’s how to perform the Superman Stretch:

  • Lie face down on the ground and stretch both your arms out in front of your body
  • Slowly raise your hands and feet approximately 6 inches off the floor
  • Keep your head straight and look at the floor
  • Pull in your belly button, lifting it off the floor to engage the core muscles
  • Hold this position for 2 seconds and then revert to the starting position
  • Repeat the sequence 10 times

Physiotherapist Answers To Common Back Injury Related Questions

Q1: How do I know if my back injury is serious?

Answer: The following are indications that your injury may require medical attention:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty while inhaling and exhaling
  • Unbearably sharp pain rather than a dull ache
  • Unexpected increase in pain, numbness, discomfort or weakness
  • Numbness or pins & needle sensation in the groin area or the glutes
  • Severe fever, paralysis or blood in the urine

Q2: How do I strengthen my lower back after an injury?

Answer: Physiotherapy should be a key part of most post-injury rehabilitation and strengthening programs. While the stretches and exercises included above are highly effective, the specific exercises and activities included in your particular program will depend on the type of injury you’ve sustained. 

Q3: How long does it take for a back injury to heal?

Answer: Physiotherapists can only provide rough estimates regarding recovery times as this does vary depending on the severity of the injury and each individual’s physiology. That said, here are some rough guidelines:

  • Mild strains & sprains can heal in a few days by suspending whatever activity is causing the pain and giving your back time to rest
  • Acute or aggravated injuries that don’t require surgery may need 4-12 weeks for recovery
  • Recovery from an average outpatient surgery requires approximately 4-6 weeks and major surgeries may take months to heal, and often require an additional extended Physiotherapy rehabilitation program
  • Degenerative or aggravating conditions, such as arthritis, may require a treatment plan that lasts several weeks or even months to relieve the related pain


The best way to experience relief from back pain or to prevent back pain is by having strong, flexible muscles and joints. The six stretching and strengthening exercises identified above are effective for building strength and increasing flexibility. When combined with other Physiomed back injury prevention tips, they can help you reduce pain and preserve your quality of life.

If you need help addressing your acute or chronic back pain, contact us today and let us show you why, at Physiomed, Healthier Starts Here.

Dr. Scott Wilson

Dr. Scott Wilson is the Founder & Chairman of Physiomed; one of Canada’s largest franchised networks of inter-disciplinary healthcare clinics. A graduate of Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Dr. Wilson founded Physiomed in 1994 and has since grown Physiomed to over 30 clinics in Southern Ontario and British Columbia. With hundreds of practitioners from over a dozen disciplines, Dr. Wilson and Physiomed have helped over 100,000 Canadians with physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, orthotic therapy, compression therapy and clinical conditioning as part of a program of rehabilitation and health optimization. In addition to helping patients improve their physical and mental well-being, Dr. Wilson has also mentored hundreds of practitioners to provide better care while enjoying more fulfilling careers. He is also a keynote speaker on many health related topics including how physiotherapy, chiropractic and health & wellness treatment can help with stress, weight loss, and unlocking the true potential within to achieve lasting physical well-being.

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