Low Back Pain Exercises

Dr. Grant Smith

In my previous article we established that exercises are beneficial for those who suffer from low back pain. Keep in mind that these exercises are not for acute conditions. The exercises described in this article are designed to stretch and strengthen the low back. It is very important to use caution when attempting these exercises so as not to further any complications that you might have. If you feel any pain, stop immediately and inform your health care provider.


Walking on level ground for 15-30 min. The surface you choose should have some give to it like a treadmill, grass, dirt or (if you have to choose) asphalt as opposed to concrete. Wear comfortable walking shoes with plenty of cushion in the heel. Leather soles and high heels are not recommended. As your back gets stronger, stair stepping may be added to your daily regimen. As for using your dojang as a rehabilitation facility, you can walk the distance of the mat doing knee raises making sure to be careful about how high you lift the knee. This will accentuate the sacroiliac joint movement which will in turn stretch out the erector spinae muscles of the back. Mild soreness is common with knee raises on a chronic bad back so if you experiencing pain chances are you’re lifting too high and you should back off a bit.  Aerobic training is used to enhance circulation which will help repair damaged tissue faster.


Different than the standing knee raises, single knee to chest exercise starts and ends in the supine position. This position allows you to stretch further and gives to the ability to eliminate gravity, thus taking the hip flexors out of the equation. Note that tight hip flexors can contribute or be the root cause of certain types of low back pain.

Start by lying on your back and bringing one knee toward your chest and hold for a count of ten. Lower the bent knee and bring the opposite knee up to the chest. Repeat 3-5 times. This action stretches the muscles and ligaments of the spine.


Flex the knees at 90 degrees up on a chair or elevated platform. With arms folded to the chest lift the shoulders 4-5 inches off the floor and hold for 5 seconds then slowly lower the shoulders back down. This will strengthen the abdominal muscles and improve pelvic stability.


Taekwondo has its claim to fame rooted in high kicking. I also realize that the majority of our readers can do full splits in their sleep, or maybe not. My point is that when you have low back pain you may not be able to do the same stretches that you were able to do prior to your injury. That is why I have included this stretch in its elementary form rather than an over the top contortionist exhibition.

Find a stretch bar or a relatively short ledge, such as a pony wall in your dojang. While supported, put one leg up while keeping the other foot firmly planted on the ground. Slowly bend forward until there is a slight pull. Remember to breathe normally and try to relax, hold for 30 seconds and then come up. Repeat a few times then switch legs.


While kneeling on one knee, place the front leg at about 135 degrees and bend the knee forward. After a good stretch, draw the front leg back to a 90 degree angle and flex the trailing leg to the buttock. Hold each position for 8-10 seconds and don’t forget to switch. For long term control of back injuries the hamstrings, quadriceps and hp flexors must be flexible.


While standing with your back against the wall, slowly bend the knees as if to sit in a chair. Hold for 5-10 seconds then return to the starting position. When engaged in this exercise, do not exceed 90 degrees of flexion. Wall squats are designed to strengthen the lower back, hip and of course thighs.


While standing erect, step forward with one leg bending the knee until the posterior knee almost touches the floor. Hold momentarily then return to a standing position. Lunges will enhance the stability of the back, quadriceps and gluteals. If you need added support you can place your hands on your front thigh.

Implementing these movements into your warm-up regimen can be a fun way to change up the same old routine. Although these exercises are more geared towards the adult population it is also an excellent way to create a strong low back foundation in adolescent students in order to prevent any future problems down the road.

In closing I think it wise for the martial arts instructors and Masters who are reading this article to bone-up on some basic anatomy, physiology and biomechanics for the sake of your students. Even if you feel that you got a pretty good handle on it a short thumb through should be a nice refresher and keep your medical mind sharp because you never know when it’s going to come in handy.