Williams Exercises for Back Pain


In 1937, Dr. Paul Williams published a series of exercises designed to treat lower-back pain, according to Body Pros Physical Therapy. The exercises were developed for middle-aged adults who suffered back pain due to extreme lordosis -- an inward curvature of the lower back. Williams thought the exercises would help flatten the lower back and thus alleviate the pain associated with the condition. Current evidence, however, suggests that, while the exercises do help flatten the lower back, they do not necessarily remedy lower-back pain, according to Paul Hooper, a chiropractor and contributor to Dynamic Chiropractic.

Partial Sit-Up

Williams theorized that strengthening the abdominal muscles would help flatten the spine by pulling the front of the pelvis upward, according to Hooper. He recommended the partial sit-up for this purpose. The exercise also stretches the lower back and hips. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold your hands outside your hips with your palms facing downward. Press your lower back into the floor and then lift your head and shoulders upward and forward toward your knees, reaching toward your feet with your hands. Hold for one to two seconds, return to the starting position slowly and repeat.

Knees to Chest

The knees to chest exercise stretches the lower back and the muscles surrounding the hip joints, including the hamstrings and gluteals. It also requires light abdominal muscle contractions. Start in the same position as you did for partial sit-ups. Keeping your knees bent, lift your left foot, followed by your right, and draw your knees toward your chest as far as possible. Place your hands on top of your knees and pull them farther toward your chest, deepening the stretch. Hold for five to 10 seconds and then slowly lower one leg at a time. You can also stretch your left leg by itself, lower it back down, and then stretch your right leg.


Along with strengthening the abdominal muscles to lift the front of the pelvis, Williams also recommended strengthening the buttocks, or gluteals, to lower the back of the pelvis in order to decrease lordosis, according to Hooper. He touted a variation of the squat as an effective exercise for this purpose. Stand upright with your feet about shoulder-width apart and toes directed forward. Keeping your spine perpendicular to the floor, flex your knees until your thighs are approximately parallel to the floor, then pulse your hips up and down 15 to 20 times, about 3 inches per pulse, before standing back up. Perform three to four total repetitions. Hold dumbbells outside your hips to make the exercise more challenging.