How to Fix Lower Back Tightness

When you hurt your back, you want to get moving as soon as possible. Here’s some of the favorite exercises to fix low back tightness. This is an in between step from when you have a brand new herniated disc injury and helps you transition back to your normal exercise routine.

Exercises to Fix Lower Back Tightness

  1. Cat Camel
  2. Quadruped Rock Back
  3. Lower Trunk Rotation
  4. Sciatic Nerve Glides
  5. Swiss Ball Knee to Chest

Cat Camel For Low Back Mobility

A great place to start to address low back stiffness with direct low back spinal movement. When people are in pain this exercise can be tricky.

To perform

  • Cat = feel your tailbone tuck UNDER
  • Camel = feel the tailbone reverse

This is also known as cat cow. I never know which is which, but I don’t lose sleep over it like people lose sleep over back pain.

10-20 reps, slow and controlled. Try to time it with your breathing.

Quad rock back for Low Back and Hip Mobility

If cat camel is too painful (rare) this creates the same movement in the low back but with a little less motion. It also includes the hips, and often times getting the hips moving can reduce back pain.

The goal is MORE movement without increasing pain, not always NO pain.

Be sure to either

  • push yourself back with your hands
  • pull yourself back with your hips

10-20 reps, full exhale at end range.

    Lower trunk rotation for Low Back Tightness

    These can be more aggressive since rotation can be more sensitive but can be done in a relative pain free or minimal pain range of motion. This exercise helps with

    All areas that can get stiff and sore when you have back pain

    10-20 reps, slow and controlled

    Sciatic Nerve glide

    This can help reduce the tension in the back of the legs that makes bending forward painful or restricted.

    An irritated nerve doesn’t like to be

    • stretched
    • compressed

    But, those motions are a fact of life. So the way to fix that is to build the nerves tolerance. Over time range of motion will improve.

    10-15 reps. Start at 1 set, the progress to 2 sets, 1-2x/day.

    Swiss Ball Knee to Chest

    A great exercise to stretch the low back and start to get low level abdominal engagement.

    I like to time this with breathing. Options are

    • Inhale with rolling the ball in will help you move with less pain / less range of motion
    • Exhale with rolling the ball in will help you move FARTHER/ increased range of motion

    Choose the one that Is the most comfortable for you.

    15-20 reps

    How to Manage Low Back Tightness

    You can do this entire routine as often as possible to fix lower back tightness since they are fairly low intensity exercises. Start with 1 set of each and see how your pain responds.

    You can use the Pain Monitoring Model (Silbernagel et al) to monitor your pain:

    to guide low back tightness and pain
    Sibernagel et al Pain Monitoring Model

    If you feel fine, add in

    • an extra set of each
    • extra sessions throughout the day

    If you have one that especially helps, prioritize that one.


    These are great exercises to reduce low back tightness and are used to help transition you to you normal activities. While you are dealing with your back injury, you want to try to move as much as you can without increasing how irritated you are. These exercises and stretches are great because you can control your range of motion, which means you can control your pain intensity.