How to Get Rid of Low Back Pain: The 5 Best Exercises

Anyone with low back pain can tell you how awful it is. Plus, low back pain is one of those mysterious terms– maybe you can pick up sticks in your yard, but you can’t tie your shoes. Or, maybe you’ve already injured yourself enough so that the least bit of movement causes back pain.

someone with  a glowing red spot where their low back pain is

This was the situation that greeted me when I went to a party this past Halloween. One of the guys was a forklift operator. He was in his 40s with good health and no real problems. Then, he bent over to tie his shoe one day and his back went out.

This is extremely common! You can put your body through ridiculous challenges like heavy lifting or lots of rotation, but the thing that will drop you to your knees will be something small like tying your shoes or sneezing.

Fortunately, there are some easy exercises you can do to get rid of low back pain and start feeling better today!

But, before we talk about how to get rid of low back pain, it’s important to understand what it is and how it showed up in the first place.

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What causes low back pain?

The low back, which is technically referred to as the lumbar spine, is particularly susceptible to injury and pain. This is for three main reasons:

  1. We use it a lot. Whether you’re sitting or standing, your low back muscles are at work.
  2. Many low back muscles do the same or just slightly different work. This is both a blessing and a curse. When you injure a low back muscle, it’s easy for it to adhere to a neighbor to take over while it heals. The neighbor will, most likely, do a really good job. The downside is that if you don’t undo the adhesion once the muscle heals, you’ve just accidentally tasked one muscle to do the work of two. This can cause further back pain.
  3. Some low back muscles attach to different parts of the body. This means that yes, your low back pain can be caused by a muscle in your lower back. However, it could also be caused by a muscle that runs from your lower back to the top of your pelvis or thigh. Because of these muscles that attach in non-lumbar areas, your low back pain could be caused by some issues with your hip or thigh.

So, there’s no real way to tell which muscle is causing my low back pain?

Hold on there! You can still figure out which muscle is causing your lower back pain. Then, once you know which muscle or muscles to work on, you’ll know what you have to do to get rid of low back pain.

The Lower Back Muscles That Might Be Causing Your Low Back Pain

Many spinal muscles perform various functions like connecting vertebrae to each other up the chain of the spine. These muscles are the ones you use when your spine rotates, flexes, and extends.

Below is a drawing of your spinal muscles. You will notice that spinal muscles are present in a third to half of our back. It is quite an elaborate system to keep the spine stable.

a drawing of spinal muscles
Thanks to for the image.

Normally, these stabilizing spinal muscles aren’t the ones that are causing your pain. Instead, you should take a look at muscles like the:

  • Psoas, which connects your lumbar vertebrae to your femur (thigh bone) to work as a hip flexor;
  • Quadratus lumborum (shown above), which is referred to as the QL and runs beside your spine to connect your pelvis to your rib cage;
  • Iliocostalis lumborum (shown above), which connects your tailbone, pelvis, and lumbar spine to your rib cage; and
  • External obliques, which also connect your pelvis to your rib cage and can be notoriously weak.

Why are my low back muscles hurting?

In fairness to the low back muscles, they have some extra stress and strain that our other muscles don’t have to deal with.

  1. Your low back doesn’t have supportive help from any other bony structure (like the rib cage).
  2. Many of our organs are located in front of the spine in the space between our rib cage and pelvis. Supporting the weight of these organs can be very challenging to the stability of the spine.
  3. With so many attached muscles moving in different directions, it is easy for one tight muscle to pull a vertebra out of place.

Now that you’re starting to understand perhaps which muscles are causing your low back pain, it’s time to figure out what you need to do to relieve your pain and feel better.

How to Get Rid of Low Back Pain

Low back pain is an unwelcome visitor. Out of nowhere, it shows up and makes itself at home in your body. At first, it is just an inconvenience. 

When will this go away? Sometimes, it goes away for a couple of days and then returns. Ultimately, you end up wondering, What do I have to do to get rid of this forever?

There are obvious ways to get rid of low back pain:  

  • lose weight,
  • strengthen your core,
  • lift heavy objects by putting a good bend in your knees and keeping the object close to your chest,
  • warm-up before doing any activity,
  • wear sensible shoes with good support,
  • get massages,
  • use tennis balls or rollers to loosen up the muscles, and
  • go to the chiropractor.

All of this is really good advice. I highly recommend it. However, most of those suggestions won’t help you out if you’ve just gotten home from work and your back is killing you.

Unless you live with a chiropractor or masseuse, the only suggestion from above that can give you immediate pain relief is rolling with tennis balls or a roller. But, if you don’t have those on hand, it’s time to turn to my exercises.

Side note: It’s always best to go to your doctor if you’re in pain. Doctors can prescribe imaging to tell you if you have specific problems or injuries. This can prevent you from further injuring yourself. They can also prescribe medicines to help you feel better. I am not a medical professional, so please, take my advice as just that. If something seems wrong, go see your doctor.

5 Best Exercises to Get Rid of Your Low Back Pain Right Now

Whenever anyone comes to me with low back pain, there are certain exercises that I think of immediately. These exercises normally deliver quick pain relief with minimum effort (and almost no risk of making the back pain worse). Below are my five favorite exercises that I use with clients to get rid of their back pain immediately.

1. Right-angle press

There are two types of Right angle presses you should do. In the first one, you’re seated. In the second one, you’re standing. However, in both exercises, it’s helpful to have a wall nearby.

a picture of Sarah Stockett using dandasana to relieve low back pain

Seated right-angle press

  1. Sit with your back straight against a wall.
  2. Extend your legs in front of you. If your legs can’t straighten all the way, get something supportive you can sit on like a pillow or stack of blankets. With that lift, you should be able to let your legs reach out in front of you.
  3. Think about actively pushing your bottom into the ground. As you do this, you might notice that you also feel like you’re lifting through the top of your head.
  4. Think about reaching the soles of your feet toward whatever is in front of them. As you do this, you might notice that it feels like the back of your hips is pressing firmly into the wall behind you.

Standing right-angle press

  1. Stand up nice and tall a couple of feet away from a wall or countertop that’s about hip height.
  2. Make sure your feet are about a fist’s distance apart.
  3. Put a soft bend in your knees.
  4. Bring your hands to your hips.
  5. Start rotating forward from the waist.
  6. When your back is level with the countertop or parallel to your floor, reach your arms out in front of you.
  7. With your hands, press the wall or counter away from you and feel how energy travels out through your SITs bones behind you.
  8. Press down through your feet and feel how you seem to become lighter around your belly.

Psst! Want to learn how to relieve your back pain and keep it permanently gone? Click here to receive your free copy of The Fast + Easy Way to Relieve Hip + Back Pain.

2. Imprint/Pelvic tilt

Imprint is a popular Pilates exercise that anyone who’s been through physical therapy for a back injury might know as pelvic tilt–they’re the same deceptively simple exercise. The key to using this exercise for immediate pain relief is finding the correct muscles to help you move your pelvis back and forth.

a picture of Sarah Stockett doing Imprint to get rid of low back pain
  1. Imagine a spot about one inch below your belly button. Inhale through your nose into the sides of your rib cage and, as you exhale through pursed lips, think of drawing that spot on a diagonal line down toward your spine. Your low back should reach toward the floor, although it probably won’t completely touch or press flat against it.
  2. Make sure that the muscles in the front of your hips (your psoas) and your glutes aren’t active. They aren’t supposed to work while you do the Imprint Pilates exercise.
  3. Inhale through your nose and find the muscles in your low back to return your pelvis to neutral. When you activate the correct muscles, you’ll feel your back start to lift away from the floor. If you’re not sure how to find the correct muscles for this movement, here’s an idea. Imagine you’re out with a person you don’t really like, and they put their hand on your low back. Possibly you would be polite and wouldn’t pull away or make a big deal about it, but inside of you, every fiber of your being would be trying to get away. This is the image that I use to get my pelvis to return to neutral.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 while breathing. Make sure your neck stays in neutral and your shoulders stay away from your ears.

3. Forward bend

Letting yourself bend forward (and then dangle, if you’re so inclined) is a great way to relieve low back pain if you don’t have a bulged disc. However, if you do have a bulged disc, skip this exercise for now. Once your disc is back in place, you can return to it.

picture of Sarah Stockett doing a standing forward fold to relieve low back pain
  1. Stand with your feet about a fist’s distance apart.
  2. Lift your toes and feel the four corners of your feet. You should feel a spot under your big toe, under your little toe, and at the inside and outside of your heels.
  3. Hug the muscles to the bone in your shins and ankles.
  4. You may release your toes or keep them lifted.
  5. Make sure you have a soft bend in your knees to prevent hyperextension.
  6. Draw your belly button to your spine to help engage your abdominals.
  7. Inhale your arms up to the ceiling. Make sure that your shoulders are away from your ears and your palms face each other.
  8. Lift the rib cage way from the hips to find a nice length in your side body.         
  9. As you exhale, draw your abdominals in and lower your arms by your side and then down to the floor in front of you as you hinge forward from your hips.
  10. Rotate your pelvis so that you feel like you’re sticking your butt out to the wall behind you. (This is the key to opening up the hamstrings and relieving low back and SI joint pain.)
  11. As you inhale and exhale in this posture, think about lengthening the spine and rotating your pelvis out on the inhale. Think of softening and releasing tight muscles on the exhale.
  12. To come out of the pose: Inhale, draw the low belly to the spine, use the abdominals to lift your straight spine as your arms come out by your sides and circle toward the ceiling. Exhale, lower your hands by your side.

4. Windshield wipers

This simple exercise is a great way to stretch tight muscles and reset any vertebrae that may be out of place. Plus, the rotation calms your nervous system.

  1. Begin on your back with your feet on the outside edges of your mat.
  2. Slightly turn out your feet.
  3. Broaden your collarbones and reach your arms straight out like a “t.” Slide your shoulder blades down your back as you bend your elbows and rest the backs of your hands on the mat. This arm pose is frequently called Cactus. If the backs of your hands don’t touch down, just keep your arms out in a “t.”
  4. Let both knees lower to the right as you turn your head to the left.
  5. Come back to center.
  6. Lower your knees to the left as you turn your head to the right.
  7. Come back to center.
  8. Do several sets of this at whatever speed and with whatever breathing style feels right.

5. Spinal rotation

In Windshield wipers, we let the lower body move and keep the upper body relatively still. In Spinal rotation, we let the upper body move while the lower body stays still.

a picture of Sarah Stockett doing the Pilates spinal rotation exercise to relieve back pain
  1. Begin on your side with your shoulder directly under you and your arm straight ahead.
  2. Bend your knees so your knees are in line with your hips and your ankles. You want to have two perfect right angles.
  3. Reach your top arm to match your bottom arm. If you are correctly aligned, your fingertips should be even.
  4. Make sure your head and waist are lifted away from the mat. You should feel enough space between your waist and the mat so a mouse could squeeze through. This ensures your spine is completely straight.
  5. Hug your belly toward your spine. This ensures your spine is supported.
  6. Inhale through your nose and exhale through pursed lips.
  7. Lightly engage your abdominals as you inhale. Lift your top arm up toward the ceiling, moving only from the shoulder. Look at your hand as it raises.
  8. Exhale and rotate your spine by letting your rib cage open toward the ceiling. Keep looking at your hand as your spine rotates. Try to keep your knees close together. Allow your head to lower to the mat.
  9. Hold here for a couple of breaths. As you breathe, tight muscles should relax. You might feel a pop or two in your spine.
  10. To come out, find your abdominal muscles to help rotate you back to center as you inhale. Feel your rib cage rotate. Your top arm should be sticking straight up toward the ceiling.
  11. Exhale and lower your top hand to meet the bottom hand. If you have come back to neutral position, your fingertips will align.
  12. You can do as many of these as you want, but I normally just do 2 or 3. Also, feel free to hold and breathe so that any tight muscles you might have can loosen up.
  13. Switch sides.

Video to Teach You How to Get Rid of Low Back Pain

Sometimes it’s best to watch a video and follow the instructions. Here is a video that explains some things you can do to get rid of low back pain.

If you want to learn how to relieve your low back pain and keep it permanently gone, just click here to receive your free copy of The Fast + Easy Way to Relieve Hip + Back Pain.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! After experimenting with the very best and easiest ways to relieve hip + back pain, I figured out a powerful combination of exercises to ditch pain and get back to living a completely active life. Are you ready to get started?

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