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  • Dr. Primeaux

Spinal Strengthening Exercises

The following are examples of spinal strengthening and stretching exercises:

Partial Sit Ups

Partial sit ups are preferable to standard sit ups for people with back pain. The same muscle groups are used without stressing the lower back. Start just like a regular sit up with your back on the floor, both feet on the floor, and your knees bent. Raise your head, neck, and shoulders off of the floor and hold that position for 5 seconds. This exercise is a simple way to strengthen your core muscle group. Increasing your reps each day will improve your results.

Knee to Chest

Begin this exercise in the same position you begin the partial sit up. Start by drawing one of your knees to your chest, using both hands (only one foot is now on air). Hold to the count of 10, then slowly release it to the rest position. Start with 4-5 repetitions, and then repeat with your other leg, then both legs at the same time. This exercise is intended to stretch your glutes and back.


Lie flat on your back with your arms stretched out to the side. Bend your knees and lift your feet off of the ground. Rotate your hips to the side until your legs become parallel with the floor. Rotate from side to side for 5-10 repetitions. This exercise is designed to strengthen your core abdominal muscles.


Lie down flat on your stomach with your hands placed to your side. Lift your head and upper body off of the ground using the muscles in your lower back. Hold this position for 4-5 seconds and then lower yourself back to a resting position. Repeat 10-20 times.


Position yourself on all fours with your hands placed directly beneath your shoulders and your knees placed directly beneath your hips. Make sure your back is straight. Use your abdominal muscles to arch your back towards the ceiling, like a cat. Your head should point down towards the floor. Next, drop and extend your lower back. Your head should rise as you extend your lower back. Keep your elbows straight the entire time, you should only notice movement in your spine. Repeat this 12-15 times.

Back Extension

This exercise should be done using a stability ball. Lay your stomach over the stability ball and place your hands behind your head. Tighten your abdominal muscles. You should utilize your lower back muscles by contracting your glutes. This will lift your shoulders and chest off the ball.


Lay down on the floor face down with your arms extended above your head. Lift your arms and legs off the ground and tighten your abdominal muscles. You should appear to be in a Superman like flying position. Hold this for 30 seconds then release. DO NOT hold your breath when clenching your abdominal muscles! Proper control of your breathing is essential to the exercise technique.

Double Leg Lifts

Lie face down with your hands on the floor in front of a stability ball. Raise both legs off of the floor until your body is horizontal. Hold the position for approximately 10 seconds. Lower your legs back down to the floor. Repeat this exercise 5-10 times.

Spinal Rotation

Sit in a chair, reach one arm across your stomach and hold the opposite side of the chair. Turn your head and look over your shoulder while rotating your lower and middle back. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.

External Shoulder Rotation

Lie down on your right side with your right arm folded beneath your head. Ensure that your upper left arm is parallel to your torso; bend at the elbow place your forearm across your stomach with your hand on the floor. While rotating your shoulder, raise your forearm so that it is perpendicular to the side of your body. Change sides and repeat. You can also perform this exercise with a dumbbell to enhance results.

Internal Shoulder Rotation

Lie down on your right side, similar to the position for the external shoulder rotation; however keep your right hand free this time. Keep your right arm in place next to your body then bend at your elbow. Rotate your shoulder and move your forearm. Your shoulder will start out flat on the floor, as you rotate your shoulder into your body your forearm should remain flat across your stomach. Do 10-15 reps with or without a dumbbell.

Lateral Deltoid Raise

Place your arms at the side of your body, palms facing your thighs. Tighten your abdominals, bend your knees slightly, then position the feet about shoulder-width apart. Raise your arms straight out to your side until they reach shoulder height. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, and then slowly return your arms to your sides.

Front Deltoid Raise

Start with your arms in front of your body, palms facing the thighs. Tighten the abdominals, bend the knees slightly, and position the feet about shoulder-width apart. Raise your arms straight out in front of you until they are shoulder height. Hold that position briefly, and slowly lower your arms.

Single-Arm Lat Pulldown

Place both hands overhead holding an elastic resistance band. Engage the abdominal muscles, bend your knees slightly, and position the feet about shoulder-width apart.

Pull downward to the side with one arm, until your upper arm is next to your torso. Hold momentarily, and then return slowly to your starting position. Be sure to keep your arms slightly in front of your face. This will help to protect your shoulders and back.

Stability Ball Push-Ups

Place a stability ball under your stomach with your hands placed on the floor in front of you. Roll forward slowly until your shins are balancing on the stability ball. Hold this position and do pushup by bending at the elbow.

Side Lumbar Bridge

Lie down on the floor on one side with your legs out straight. Support your upper body by keeping your elbow directly below your shoulder. Be careful not to rotate your top hip forward, engage your abdominal muscles using your torso to lift your hips. Maintain the position for 10 to 15 seconds, keep your neck and spine in a neutral position.

Single-Leg Reverse Curl

Start by lying down on your back with one knee flexed with your foot flat on the floor and while your other leg is straight out slightly raised off the ground. Extend your arms flat along your body and hold a neutral alignment in your cervical spine.

Lift the working knee and leg in an upward diagonal direction over the belly button. Hold the position, then slowly lower the leg to the starting position. Repeat with your other leg.

Crunch w/Stability Ball

Lie down with your back over the stability ball. Place your hands behind your head or fold them across your chest. Hold a backwards-pelvic tilt then raise your shoulder blades off the ball, return to your starting position, and repeat several times.

Neck Flexion

Stand facing a wall. Hold a stability ball at forehead height. Push your forehead into the stability ball using your neck muscles. Relax and repeat.

Neck Extension

Stand facing away from a wall. Hold a stability ball behind your head. Push the back of your head into the ball.

Neck Lateral

Stand sideways to a wall. Hold a stability ball over your shoulder on the side of your head. Push the side of your head into the ball laterally.

Neck Stretches

Bring your ear to your shoulder. Hold your neck in that position for 5 to 7 seconds. Move your ear toward your shoulder. You should feel the stretch of your neck muscle on the opposite side.

Additional stretches

Bend your head back and look toward the ceiling. This exercise stretches the muscles located in the front of your neck.

Rotate your head toward your right or left shoulder. Look down, you should feel a stretch on the opposite side from the direction you are looking. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds and repeat.

Neck exercises to build strength

Place your hand on your forehead; push your forehead against your hand. This will provide resistance. Several sets of up to 6, 8, or 10 repetitions are recommended for this exercise.

Put your hands on the back of your neck. Push your head back and provide resistance with your hands. Several sets of up to 6, 8, or 10 repetitions are recommended for this exercise.

Completing these exercises in several sets of 6, 8, or 10 several times a day will improve your flexibility within a few months.

If any of these exercises causes dizziness, fainting or loss of balance… STOP THE EXERCISE AND CONTACT YOUR PHYSICIAN.

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