Exercises for Neck & Back Health

If you suffer from back or neck pain, here are some exercises and stretches that you can do at home to help relieve your pain. Some of the exercises can also strengthen the core muscles that help stabilize and support the spine.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT EXERCISES: You should not perform the following exercises if they cause irritation or pain in your back or any other discomfort while you are performing them! Additionally, never do any of these exercises after a traumatic injury, such as a fall or sports injury or any onset of pain that has emerged suddenly. Because each back condition is different, before you start to perform any of these exercises, you should always consult your doctor to determine what exercises, if any, are right for your particular condition. If you have any discomfort or pain after performing any of these exercises, discontinue immediately and consult a doctor for proper assessment of your situation.

  • Bent Over:

    Start by standing straight. Cross your arms over your chest. Slowly bend over to let the weight of your upper body to stretch your back. Hold for ten seconds before returning to the standing position. Repeat 20 times.

  • Body Flexion:

    Sit on your heels and cross your hands over your abdomen. Slowly lean your upper body forward and allow it to curl. Meanwhile keep your head off the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat several times.

  • Body Flexion and Stretch:

    Sit on your heels. Slowly lean your upper body forward, and stretch your arms forward at the same time. Keep your head off the ground. Hold for 30 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat several times.

  • Dog:

    Start on all fours. Create an arch in your lower back by lowering your abdomen toward the ground while raising your head. Hold for 30 seconds. Go back to the starting position. Repeat 20 times.

  • Piriformis Stretch:

    Lie down on your back with your right knee up and both arms stretching outward at 45-degree angles away from your body. Slowly let your right knee fall across your body to the ground. Keep your shoulders as flat as possible. Hold for 30 seconds. Return to the starting position. Raise your left knee and let it fall across your body to the right side. Hold for 30 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat ten times, alternating knees.

  • Piriformis Standing:

    Start by raising your knee in front of you. Slowly swing your knee across your body and hold for ten seconds. Repeat with the other knee. This exercise can be done at work or outdoors because it can relieve back pain without requiring you to lie down on the floor as the standard piriformis stretch requires. To help you maintain your balance, you can lean against a wall or tree.

  • Single Knee To Chest:

    Start with both feet together flat on the ground. Raise your right knee upward and pull it toward your chest with your hands. Hold for 30 seconds, and then return to the starting position. Switch to the other leg. Repeat ten times with each leg.

  • Sphinx:

    Start by lying on your stomach. Slowly raise your upper body while keeping your pelvis flat on the floor. Try to create an arch in your lower back. Go up only as far as you can without discomfort.

  • Standing Back Extension:

    This exercise can be done at work or any other place where doing a press up on the floor is not practical. Start by putting your hands on your lower back. Slowly arch backward as far as you can without discomfort. Hold for three seconds, and return to the starting position. Repeat five times.

  • Stretch To Foot:

    Sit on the ground with your legs extended while keeping your feet together. With your hands flat against the ground, slowly extend your upper body forward as much as you comfortably can. Hold for 30 seconds and relax. Repeat ten times.

  • Superman:

    Start by lying on your stomach with face down. Raise your shoulders and hold yourself up with your arms extended in front of you. Hold for 30 seconds, and then return to the starting position. Repeat ten times. Additional exercises aimed at reducing the symptoms of spinal pain include low-impact, gentle movements. The following are some recommended exercises:

    • Yoga, which involves stretching, smooth movements, breathing, and relaxing
    • Low-impact aerobic exercises like walking, bicycling, swimming, or water aerobics
    • Stretching exercises recommended by your physician or physical therapist that are particularly beneficial to your specific condition

Neck Exercises

The following exercises are specific for the neck. Many of them are good exercises to do during work to prevent neck strain, especially if your job requires you to keep your head in a steady position for extended periods, such as working in front of a computer.

  • Neck Extension:

    Without arching your back, slowly move your head backward so you are looking upward. Hold for five seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat several times.

  • Neck Forward Flexion:

    Start by looking straight ahead. Slowly lower your chin toward your chest. Hold for five seconds, and then return to the starting position. Repeat ten times.

  • Neck Glide:

    Start with neck straight. Slowly slide your chin forward. Hold for five seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat ten times.

  • Neck Rotation:

    Start by looking straight ahead. Slowly turn your head to the left. Hold for ten seconds, and then return to the starting position. Then, slowly turn your head to the other side. Hold for ten seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat ten times.

  • Neck Side Extension:

    Start by looking straight ahead. Slowly lean your head to the left. Hold for five seconds, and then return to the starting position. Then, slowly lean your head to the other side. Hold for five seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat ten times.

  • Neck Stretch:

    Start by looking straight ahead. Slowly raise both shoulders up. Hold for five seconds, and then return to the starting position. Repeat ten times.

Endoscopic spine procedures can be used to correct many of the conditions that cause chronic back pain or to repair failed previous surgeries.

- Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD President, Atlantic Spine Center Read More about Dr.Liu
Dr. Liu