Exercises for Osteoarthritis of the Lumbar Spine

Exercises for Osteoarthritis of the Lumbar Spine

Exercise is key in managing osteoarthritis, or joint inflammation, in the lumbar spine. Strengthening the muscles helps relieve the pressure of gravity while spreading nutritive fluids in the joints. Choose exercises that support your spine while increasing your range of motion, advises arthritis expert Dr. Vijay Vad, author of "Arthritis RX." Consult your health care professional before beginning any new exercise program.

Cat and Cow

Kneel on all fours on a comfortable surface, placing your knees directly below your hips and your hands directly below your shoulders. Exhale as you arch your back like a cat, sending your mid-back toward the sky. Allow your head and tailbone to drop toward the ground. Inhale as you raise your head and tailbone skyward. Drop your belly toward the ground and your shoulders away from your ears. Continue this slow cycle of breathing and moving five to 10 times to lubricate the discs in your spine, according to Vad.

Pelvic Tilt

Use this movement to gently release lumbar spine stiffness caused by arthritis, advises Pilates expert Lynne Robinson, author of “The Official Body Control Pilates Manual.” Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Place your hands on your lower abdomen with your fingers pointing toward your pubic bone. Arch your back an inch, so your pubic bone drops closer to the floor. Reverse this movement, drawing your navel in, so your pubic bone rises. Continue rocking slowly, exhaling during each movement. Repeat this movement five to 10 times.

Toe Taps

After completing pelvic tilt, raise your hips and place a 9-inch towel roll under your sacrum, just above your tailbone. Rest the weight of your hips on the roll. Float your knees toward the sky, using your arms to stabilize your body. Your thighs should be straight up and down. Slowly lower one knee until your toes tap the floor. Float it back up to your start position. Repeat this movement, alternating legs for about two minutes. Place your feet on the floor and remove the towel. You may notice that your lumbar spine feels flatter and more relaxed.


After completing toe taps, gently squeeze the towel roll between your knees. Use the pelvic tilt motion to lift your tailbone an inch off your mat. Hold this position for three breaths and then lower down. Try again, lifting an inch or two higher. Squeeze your seat as you lift your hips. Continue raising your hips a little higher each time, staying within a comfortable range of motion. Your goal is to create one long line from your knee to your shoulder, but you do not need to attain the full position on your first day of exercise.