Lumbar Extension Overview

In this video below, we look at how to perform lumbar extension to relieve leg and lower back pain. Back pain is one of the most common ailments that people present with to me at the clinic. The fact we lead sedentary lifestyles in front of desks for a living certainly doesn’t help matters. Sitting day in and day out leads to what is known as a flexion bias in the lumbar region. This flexion bias leads to an anterior tilt of the pelvis and makes it more difficult to find our neutral alignment. This can lead to increased hypertonicity in the lumbar tissues. A reduction of space and a compressive force in the lower back is also common.

This then can predispose us to an injury. For example, if we have been seated all day in an office, inertia and sluggishness sets in. Then we decide to hit the gym or take part in the football match. This requires us to ramp up our efforts in a short space of time. Often we find the tissues in the back are overly tight. They lack the elasticity to adapt to this sudden demand for rapid movement and injury duly occurs.


If someone is suffering lower back pain with/without referral symptoms into the lower limb, then this can be a very useful exercise to help alleviate symptoms. Caution is advised while attempting it and it should be performed only upon approval and diagnosis from a qualified medical practitioner.


Lying flat on your stomach, engage your core stability muscles in the abdomen, spine and pelvic floor. Maintain this position for up to a minute noticing all the time, whether your symptom in the leg and/or lower back are reducing. You can hold this posture for up to three minutes if you continue to feel good relief.

Stage 2

You can advance the same exercise, by coming onto your forearms so that the degree of extension in the lower back increases. Again you should feel only a reduction in symptoms from the leg, and perhaps now you only feel a local discomfort in the lumbar area. This level of lumbar extension is often sufficient for most people to reap some reward.

If however your physical therapist feels there is further gain to be had, then they may advice you to try stage 3.

Stage 3

In this phase, you will increase the degree of lumbar extension by rising onto your hands with elbows straight. You may feel a compressive force in the lower back, but hopefully you now also feel a total cessation of symptoms in the leg and the lower back. Once again, I should stress that only your physical therapist can assess and prescribe this exercise for you and that you should only perform it under their supervision. They will know whether this lumbar extension exercise is suited to alleviate your presenting condition.

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