5 gentle lower back exercises for restoring mobility and relieving pain

The six lower back exercises outlined below are an ideal way to manage your lower back pain. They aim to reduce you overall pain levels, remove stiffness and tension in the lower back, increase mobility and improve the overall health of your lower back.

The video below is one that me and Louise made that looks at the best exercises for restoring mobility and lower back pain relief.

The top five lower back exercises recommended by the OFC are:

  • Extension
  • Flexion
  • Side-bending
  • Knee sways
  • Knee hugs

These exercises are useful for anyone experiencing lower back pain of any degree, however how much pain and discomfort you feel during these exercises will obviously limit how much you can do. 

Before attempting any of these exercises for your lower back, make sure you are safe to do so by completing the Oswestry disability scale to determine your level of disability and whether your back needs to be examined by a professional.

We recommend not pushing yourself to the point of pain, that is not the point of these lower back exercises. 

These exercises are here to gently and slowly restore normal function to your lumbar spine, gently quieten muscle spasm, improve range of motion and help local fluid dynamics.

They should be carried out alongside other lower back pain treatments.

Supine lumbar spine extension

There are several ways of integrating extension into your lower back exercise routine but always involve controlledslow and careful movements.

In many cases simply lying on your front with back pain will be difficult. If this is the case for you then it may be advisable for you to avoid these extension exercises initially. If it you are feeling good, then try these exercises nice and slowly to begin with, building up the angle at which you extend inch by inch, moment by moment.

For this exercise bring you arms in front of you and slowly arch your back as is demonstrated by Louise in he pictures below.

Lower back extension prone
Lower back extension prone
Lower back extension prone

Kneeling lumbar spine extension 

Lumbar spine extension is an important movement in the lower back for restoring mobility and resolving pain and muscle spasm. Over-extending however does have the risk of exacerbating your symptoms.

This lower back exercise can also be practised kneeling, as shown in the image below. Place you hands on you hips and gently lean backwards.

Lower back extension while kneeling
Lower back extension while kneeling
Lower back extension while kneeling

Lower back flexion

The opposite of extension, flexion is a far more natural movement for your lower back and in the majority of cases will provide almost immediate relief from back pain symptoms. In cases where flexion, or forward-bending, aggravates your symptoms then care needs to be taken - disk injuries for example can feel pretty sore when the back is flexed forward.

By gently bending forwards you are allowing gravity to take over and decompress through your lumbar spine.

While in some case this might seem extremely comfortable be careful as many people will find once they have bent forward they may have difficulty standing up again - especially true if there is increased muscle spasm in your lower back.

To avoid this start of by bending forwards just a little, then back u right. The next time go a  little further and then back up. Keep going until you know you can confidently stand upright again with no problems

Lower back flexion
Lower back flexion
Lower back flexion

Single knee hugs

Knee hugs constitute the go to advice for most people with lower back pain. The advantages of these lumbar spine exercises is the stretching and decompression action which occurs when the knee are brought up to the chest.

The other perk is that knee hugs can be done in bed, a great advantage for those in significant pain.

lower back exercise, single knee hug

Double knee hugs

Slightly more advanced than lifting one knee up, the double knee hug should give you pretty quick relief from pain while at the same time allowing your back to decompress and allow those painful muscles to relax.

Lower back exercise, double knee hug

Lower back sidebending

Practising leaning over from side to side is a great way to get your lumbar spine moving again, restoring mobility and reducing pain and muscle spasm. 

Gently slide you right hand down your right leg, allowing you body to follow, nice and slowly. Return to neutral and then go over the other way, repeating several times until you feel that your muses are relaxing and your lower back is moving better.

lumbar spine sidebending standing
lumbar spine sidebending standing
lumbar spine sidebending standing

Knee sways

Knee sways are a fantastic way to very gently reintroduce movement to your back especially after a long period of being in pain or just due to chronic stiffness. Lie on your back if you can, bring your knees up and then very gently sway them from left to right.

This style of lower back exercise is a fantastic way of decompressing your lower back while at the same time stretching out muscles and restoring general mobility.

Other benefits of knee sways is that they encourage heeling by increasing fluid dynamics in the area: disks get their nutrition through osmosis and require movement to heal, muscles also require movement for vital nutrients and waste removal.

Follow this link for more information about the knee sways exercise and its benefits.

knee sways supine
knee sways supine
knee sways supine

We hoped you like this page about lower back exercises and can start to see a way out of your back pain. Use the links to find out more information about how you can help yourself, otherwise go back to the homepage to find out more about what the OFC can do for you.


This page was written and composed by experts in their fields;


Oliver is a registered Osteopath in the UK with a particular interest in sports and rehabilitation - he practises in Devon, Southwest England.


Louise is a registered Osteopath, fitness model and enthusiast as well as a business and social influencer. She also practises as an Osteopath in Devon, UK.

Oliver and Louise specialise in helping people get over their pain and get back to living the lives they want to be living - follow this link to find out more about us.

We welcome any one who wants to get in touch with us here at the OFC for any reason - please use the form on our contact us page.

All the information and advice in this website should be followed with common sense and expert help - follow this link for our full disclaimer.