The Best Exercises to Relieve Back Pain (psst: these work for pregnancy, too!)

I’ve had a few clients who have had chronic back pain. There are several exercises I would program as a warm up and a cool down before their sessions. The same moves also work well for pregnant women trying to relieve back discomfort caused by their growing bump. So it’s no surprise that these are the exercises I turned to after I pulled a muscle in my back last week, to get moving again.

* As always, remember to check with your doctor before trying this, or any other workout, since these exercises may not be appropriate for every individual. *

The Best Exercises to Relieve Back Pain

The Best Exercises to Relieve Back Pain

Let’s start off with the Cat-Cow pose, because it just feels so good, whether you’re in pain or not. From an all-fours position, round your back as high as you can (cat pose), then drop your back, let your shoulder blades sink and your head rise (cow pose).

The Best Exercises for Back Pain

Tail Wags (also called hip hikes, but c’mon, “tail wags” sounds more fun) saved me during pregnancy. This movement feels amazing for your lower back. Still in the all-fours position, keeping the shoulders still, rotate the right hip towards the right shoulder, return to the starting position, then rotate the left hip as far as you can towards the left shoulder.

The Best Exercises for Back Pain

I call this next exercise Quadripeds, but it’s also known as Bird Dog. Whatever you want to call it, it’s great for your back, since you’re working to hold your spine in a neutral position while your limbs are moving. Still in the all fours position, with a neutral spine, take one arm and the opposite leg and slowly extend them away from your torso as far as you can. Slowly return to all-fours, then switch to the other side. Your goal is to keep your back as still as possible – some trainers use a light wooden dowel resting on their clients spine to ensure they are not moving their back at all while the limbs extend.

The Best Exercises for Back Pain

Pendulums, performed slowly and carefully, work on spinal rotation. Lie down on your back with arms out in a T and legs up in a tabletop position. Slowly drop the legs to one side, keeping your shoulder blades down throughout the movement. Only go as far as it feels comfortable, then return to center before rotating to the opposite side.

The Best Exercises for Back Pain

If you happen to have access to a stability ball, try a chest stretch, which can become tight from hunching and compensating for your back pain. And let’s face it, your chest is usually tight, thanks to computers and office jobs and poor posture. That means, any time you see one of these balls, make a run for it and get this stretch in – you’ll feel amazing. Take a seat, then walk your feet forwards away from the ball, until your lower back is draped over top and your shoulders, arms and head fall back. Keep your arms up above the shoulder joint and feel the stretch in the pectorals.

The Best Exercises to Relieve Back Pain

I threw in the Sanskrit name for the Legs Up the Wall Pose, because ‘Legs Up the Wall’ just doesn’t have a sexy ring to it, does it? At least it’s perfectly descriptive – you lie on your back on the floor, with your legs up against a wall. Usually, you use a bolster or folded blanket to place beneath your hips. Instead, I kept a pelvic tilt position throughout the pose. If you’re pregnant and want to attempt this pose, you may need to elevate your torso, to avoid pressure on your inferior vena cava, a large vein in your abdomen that runs blood from your legs to your heart.

The Best Exercises to Relieve Back Pain

Some other exercises you can try to relieve lower back pain include cobra pose  – a back extension from a prone position – which I didn’t do because it hurt my QL; partial curls; and single knee to chest.

Have you had back pain before? Any exercises that helped you?

Do you do exercises or static stretches after working out?


  1. This pregnant lady thanks you! At 23 weeks, I haven’t experienced much back pain, but these will only continue to come in handy as I grow 🙂
    Jaclyn @ BumpSweat recently posted…Expert Q&A: Running While PregnantMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Congratulations!! 🙂 Try tail wags, they feel amazing on your back! And it’s kind of nice to let the bump hang, too.

  2. Thankfully I have never had back pain. Those stretches are good to know if I ever do. I usually just foam roll after my runs. I’m really bad at remembering to stretch afterwards. I know I need to though.
    lacey@fairytalesandfitness recently posted…On My Way!My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I think foam rolling is just as important as stretching, and might be all you need, anyway, so I think you’re okay, Lacey.

  3. I don’t think I’ve tried tail wags – gonna have to try that one!
    Kim recently posted…How Much Is Too Much?My Profile

  4. Oh I love all of these Carly! Sadly, I’ve been experiencing more lower back pain lately (boo!) but cat-cow and a version of your tail wags (love the name) definitely help!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Paddling for PositionMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Boo to back pain. I read your post on recovering after turning 35 right around the time I hurt my back…what timing!

  5. Knock wood, I am the only one in my family without back pain. I do all of these anyway though. One can never be too safe. : )
    Marcia recently posted…Loving/Not LovingMy Profile

  6. Stretching works good for back pain problems. Specialist also advises for it. The all postures and steps you shared are simple and easy to do at home. Regular stretching reduce the chances of major back pain issues. Pregnancy is crucial time women and it is usual that they suffers from back pain problem. This post will sure help them also .

    Thank you CARLY !

  7. Over the last month or so I have been having back pain after I get home from the gym. I’m not sure why, but it’s starting to get annoying and I’m looking for ways to get rid of it. These exercises sound awesome and I can’t wait to try them when I get home tonight.

  8. Helped some for the first time going it. Although the pendulum killed the pain even more. For being 27 weeks pregnant I’ve never had so much pain in my life. My dr says my back pain is normal.

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Congrats on your pregnancy, Sarah! Try out a foam roller – you can get a high density foam roller for under $20 online – and roll out your glutes (the sides of your butt as well), because that can really help if you’re suffering sciatic pain. Also I found prenatal yoga helped a lot to keep me pain free and some women swear by acupuncture during pregnancy (but I never tried that).

  9. Which muscles et al. are stretched with tailwags, and the other poses, for that matter? I see plenty of poses for the back, but can’t find info about what actually gets stretched. Thanks!

  10. hey these are amazing workout, me and my friend tried , now we feel much better. thanks a lot.
    Rachel 🙂


  1. […] The Best Exercises to Relieve Back Pain (psst! these work for pregnancy too!) from me, Fine Fit Day […]

  2. […] Your center of gravity definitely shifts as your belly grows during pregnancy. Since it’s a fairly gradual process, you may not find your balance is affected unduly by this shift – but your posture almost certainly will be affected without your intervention. Try focusing on tucking your tailbone under a little more as you run, to counteract any anterior pelvic tilt that may lead to lower back pain. […]