If you have experienced lower back pain, you will benefit from the three exercises for back pain, as they will strengthen your lower back.

Listen up massage therapists: Strengthen your lower back with these three exercises for back pain.

As massage therapists, the health of our lower back can be the difference between breezing through 20 clients a week or struggling through each day.

Try these exercises for back pain specifically in your lower back. Stop if anything hurts, and begin with gentle stretching if your pain is acute. As your back allows, add these back exercises until you are strong enough to complete three sets of each.

1. Tune in to lower-back mobility.

In a quick review of the anatomy of the spine, we can see the five lumbar vertebrae are just under the twelve thoracic vertebrae.

The lumbar area seems more vulnerable as each thoracic vertebra is attached to a rib. However, it doesn’t have to be vulnerable if the lower back and abdominal musculature are strong enough for support.

A helpful exercise to tune in to the mobility of the lower back is the supine pelvic tilt. Take time to feel the movement. Even though it may seem like an easy exercise, it will bring awareness to the mobility of the lumbar spine. As the following exercises begin to build lower back strength, a correct lower back posture is needed. We start here.

Supine Pelvic Tilt

• Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

• There is a natural curve of the lower back which we will flatten to the floor in this exercise.

• Tilt your pelvis posteriorly to make the lower back flatten to the floor. Think of an egg being placed between your lower back and the floor. Your goal is to break the egg as you flatten your lower back to the floor.

pelvic tilt starting position
Pelvic tilt starting position

• Return your lumbar spine to neutral. That completes one repetition. Do this for a count of 12. Breathe out as you flatten your lower back and breathe in as you return to neutral.

• This is a small movement. Feel the lower back muscles as your pelvis does this small rock from neutral to posterior and back.

2. Activate all posterior muscles.

Before lower back pain is felt, some key muscles have stopped pulling their load. When certain muscles slack off, other muscles pick up the slack to try and maintain a full range of motion.

This next back exercise activates all muscle groups needed for a pain-free lower back. It will restore function to those muscle groups that have stopped working in full effect. To do this, you must remain present and slowly perform the exercise, feeling each part.

Bird Dog

Bird Dog

• This back exercise begins with weight equally distributed between hands and knees. On all fours, adjust your weight evenly between hands and knees and from the left to right side of the body. Your hands should be directly beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Place your head and neck in a neutral position to minimize neck strain during the exercise.

• Begin by reaching the right arm out in front of you while at the same time extending the left leg out straight behind you. Hold this position for a count of three and then lower the arm and leg back down to resume the starting position on hands and knees.

• Keep your spine straight from your head to tailbone when holding the arm and leg off the floor. This will prevent a sway of the lumbar spine. If you feel your lower back drop into a sway position, try modifying* the exercise until you are strong enough to simultaneously hold both arm and leg out.

• Modification: Reach one arm out in front of you, hold and then lower. Then try it with one leg out behind you, hold and lower. Once you can keep a straight spine with just an arm or leg raised, you are ready to try both arm and leg together.

• Switch to raising the left arm out in front of you and the right leg straight behind you. Hold for a count of three and then lower. One repetition is complete after holding each side. Do 12 repetitions.

• Focus on tightening your abdominal muscles while lifting the arm and leg into a straight line. Avoid lifting higher than the level of your shoulder and hip, as this can cause a sway of the lower back.

3. Strengthen core muscles.

The lower back is meant to be supported by our core muscles. The core muscles include the abdominals, obliques and back muscles. When strength is lacking, posture suffers and low back pain presents itself.

Think of the core muscles providing a corset for the spinal column. When strong, the torso can flex, extend and rotate without any problem. As you work at the massage table with a strong core, you will be able to complete multiple sessions, even physically taxing ones, without pain.

This strength is the key to saying goodbye to lower back pain. Good posture and body mechanics come easier with this strength as well.



• Begin this back exercise lying face down on the floor with arms stretched overhead.

• Tighten your core muscles, squeeze your legs together, and lift your arms and legs off the floor while engaging the glutes. Think of making your body long through the tips of the finger to the toes, flying through the air like Superman. Hold the arms and legs off the floor for a count of two and lower down to the starting position.

• It doesn’t matter how high you lift as you begin this exercise. Having good form and squeezing the lower body before you lift will allow you to lift higher as you get stronger.

• Do 12 repetitions.

Plank Hip Dips
Plank Hip Dips

Plank Hip Dips

• Adding a little rotation to the traditional plank hits those oblique muscles more specifically.

Begin in the plank position on elbows and toes. Make sure your elbows are aligned straight down from your shoulders.

• Lower your right hip toward the floor, then the left hip toward the floor for one repetition. The hips do not have to touch the floor.

• Do 12 repetitions.

• It helps to shift weight on the toes as you lower right and left. A little shuffle or hop of the toes helps the rotation as you dip the hips toward the floor.

Angela Lehman

About the Author

Angela Lehman is a massage therapist of 25 years turned online educator, promoting fitness and nutrition for massage therapists. She runs The Fit MT. With her kinesiology degree specialized in nutrition, she trains therapists in healthy eating, exercise and body mechanics to prolong their careers.