Strength Training is an Effective Treatment for Low Back Pain

| Dr. Eva Norman

80% of Americans have experienced low back pain at some point in their life.1 For most people these episodes usually resolve within a week or two; however, some people experience chronic low back pain. Chronic low back pain is classified as low back pain lasting longer than 3 months. There are many causes of chronic low back pain with a main cause being spinal osteoarthritis.1 Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and which occurs mostly in hands, hips, and knees causing pain, stiffness, and swelling of those joints.2 Changes in your joints due to osteoarthritis occurs slowly and generally worsens over time.2 Unfortunately there is no cure for osteoarthritis but there are many forms of treatment including medications for pain relief, surgery such as knee/hip replacement, and using assistive devices like a cane or walker.2 Moreover, physical activity and physical therapy are also effective treatments for osteoarthritis.2 Have you heard the term “motion is lotion”? “Motion is lotion” refers to how movement can improve joint health through increasing blood flow, nutrients, and lubrication of the affected joint. In general, maintaining or increasing your physical activity and keeping the affected joint moving can help improve your osteoarthritis symptoms.

Physical therapists can create an exercise program designed to keep the joints affected by osteoarthritis moving in a healthy way in addition to strengthening the muscles that support the joint. For example, strengthening core, hip, and back muscles can reduce pain and improve your function and mobility. Here are 5 strengthening exercises designed to help support your lumbar spine and reduce your low back pain:

Abdominal Set: Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands on your lower abdominal area and try to draw in your belly button toward your spine. This exercise is designed to activate your “corset” muscle also known as your transverse abdominis which helps support your lumbar spine. Hold this abdominal set for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.

Bridges: Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Activate your transverse abdominis as you did in the abdominal set and then lift your hips towards the ceiling. Start with 8 repetitions and see how your body tolerates the exercise.

Row: Start with sitting in chair with your feet flat on the floor and arms at your side. Bend your elbows to 90* and then move arm backwards slightly past your trunk while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Start with 8 repetitions and see how your body tolerates the exercise. You can progress this exercise to a standing position as seen to the right, but this position is more complex and has the potential to increase strain on your low back.

Clamshells: Start with lying on your side with your knees bent. Place your top hand on your hip and slowly raise your top leg towards the ceiling. If you feel your hip start to rotate backward then you raised your leg too much. Start with 8 repetitions and see how your body tolerates the exercise.

Sit to stand: Start with sitting at chair with the back of chair supported by a stable object such as a wall. Try to stand up and sitting back down SLOWLY without the use of your hands. Start with 8 repetitions to see how your body tolerates the exercise.

If pain increases during the movement, then modify the exercise to be performed in a pain-free range of motion if able. The purpose of these exercises is to provide a general guideline for whole body strengthening. For a more individualized approach to your low back pain, contact us today to learn how our in-home physical therapy services can improve your overall wellness, function, and mobility.


1Lindsey T, Dydyk AM. Spinal Osteoarthritis. PubMed. Published 2024. Accessed May 12, 2024.

2CDC. Osteoarthritis | CDC. Published June 13, 2023.

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