Common Causes Of Lower Back Pain And Exercises To Alleviate It

Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

Medically reviewed by Dr. James Tan

Are you dealing with lower back pain? If yes, then you are not alone. Lower back pain can be challenging and is quite common among people. The lower back comprises five vertebrae that connect the upper body with the pelvis. It experiences a lot of stress and bears weight that can lead to trauma, injuries, and wear and tear. This causes lower back pain, which may or may not resolve on its own.

In this article, we discuss some of the most common causes of lower back pain that can help you determine what might be causing your back pain. Accurate diagnosis of the underlying causes can help the doctor in recommending the appropriate treatment plan. We also discuss some effective back pain exercises that can help manage the pain in addition to your doctor’s treatment.

person experiencing lower back pain

What Causes Back Pain?

Some of the most common causes of lower back pain include the following:

Strains and Sprains

Sprains and strains are the most common causes of lower back pain. Heavy lifting, bending or twisting the back, or lifting even a small thing inappropriately can injure the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in the back, leading to lower back muscle pain. You can even strain your back while coughing or sneezing.

Back Injuries

Injuries or trauma to the back, spine, vertebrae, and adjoining muscles can cause acute back pain. These injuries can also cause degeneration over time, leading to chronic low back pain.


Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory joint condition that can cause inflammation and stiffness in the spine, resulting in lower back pain.

Herniated Or Slipped Discs

Our spine is made up of several vertebrae that have gel-like discs between them. These discs act as cushions and shock absorbers for the spine. A herniated or slipped disc refers to the condition when the disc, due to some trauma or wear and tear, loses its elasticity and causes the centre gel to spill out, thereby irritating or compressing the spinal nerve roots. This can cause lower back pain as well as sciatica.

Bone Tumour

Spinal tumours or bone cancer can also cause back pain. It can also lead to fractures of the spine, causing back pain.

Bone Fracture

Fracture of the spine is also a cause. Bone fractures are usually caused as a result of an accident, severe trauma, or fall. Some spinal conditions and osteoporosis can also increase the risk of bone fractures.

Osteoporosis fracture occurs when your bone breaks due to this disease. Learn more in our article now!

Poor Posture

Poor posture, especially while sitting, is one of the leading causes of low back pain. Individuals who work while sitting at a desk are more prone to low back pains because of improper sitting posture.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column becomes too narrow, causing the spinal cord to be irritated or pinched. This can cause back pain and sciatica.


This is a condition in which the vertebrae of the spine slip out of their place, resulting in lower back pain.

Other Diseases

Some other diseases, such as kidney stones and abdominal aortic aneurysms, can also cause low back pain. Left lower back pain can be caused by any of the above-mentioned conditions or any issue with the organs on the left side. Right or lower left side back pain in females may be caused by endometriosis, pregnancy, and other reproductive organ issues.

Low Back Pain Treatment

Chronic low back pain can become quite challenging and affect even your daily activities. Seeking effective treatment for lower back pain can help you manage the pain and continue with your activities and tasks. Lower back pain treatment may involve conservative measures as well as surgical treatment options, depending on your underlying cause and the severity of symptoms.

Exercises For Lower Back Pain

While consulting an orthopaedic specialist for back pain and following the recommended treatment plan is crucial, there are some exercises for back pain that can aid in recovery.

Knee-To-Chest Stretch

This exercise for back pain helps relax the muscles in the lower back and is also effective in relieving sciatic pain.

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Gently bring one knee towards your chest and press it against the chest, using your hands, for 10 seconds.
  • Release the leg and bring it back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the other leg.
  • You can even bring both knees to the chest and hold the position for 10 seconds.
  • Do 2-3 reps of this exercise twice a day.

Lower Back Rotational Stretch

Another effective back pain exercise is the lower back rotational stretch.

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  • Roll both your bent knees towards one side; the knees don’t necessarily have to touch the ground. Hold this position for a few seconds.
  • Return back to the starting position.
  • Repeat the same by rolling the knees to the other side.
  • Do 2-3 reps of this exercise in the morning and at night.

Glute Bridge Stretch

The glute bridge stretch is one of the effective back stretches for back pain that helps strengthen the glute muscles and improves flexibility and range of motion of the lower back.

  • Start with lying flat on your back, knees bent, and feet flat on the ground. Arms and hands should be on your side on the ground.
  • With your shoulders and feet fixed to the ground, tighten your abdomen and glute muscles and raise your stomach/abdomen area above the ground. Feel the stretch in your back. However, only raise your back to the point where you feel a light stretch.
  • Hold the position for a few seconds and gently return back to the starting position.
  • Start with five reps at a time and increase them as your stamina and flexibility improve.

Cobra Stretch

The cobra stretch is one of the stretches for lower back pain that helps relieve pain and is very relaxing.

  • Lie on your stomach with your shoulders off the ground and your hands flat on the ground under the shoulders.
  • Press down on the ground with your hands, straightening the elbows, lifting, and extending your upper body upwards. Feel the stretch in your abdomen and lower back. Hold the position for a few seconds.
  • Gently return back to the starting position while exhaling.
  • Do at least five reps.

Cat Stretch

Another of the lower back pain exercises that can be effective in providing back pain relief is the cat stretch.

  • Get on your all fours with your hands and bent knees on the ground.
  • Inhale and arch your back up to bring it up towards the ceiling.
  • Hold the position for 3-5 seconds.
  • Slowly exhale and bring your back down, arching it towards the ground this time.
  • Repeat for 3-5 reps.

Pelvic Tilt

The last lower back pain stretch is the pelvic tilt. This stretch strengthens the abdominal muscles and helps relieve back pain.

  • Lie flat on the ground with your knees bent and feet firmly on the ground. Arms and hands should be lying flat on your sides.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and press your lower back towards the ground, flattening it to touch the ground. Hold the position for 3-5 seconds.
  • Gently relax your abdomen and bring your back to the natural position,
  • Repeat 3 to 5 reps.

These are some of the exercises and stretches that can help relieve back pain. It is important, however, to consult an orthopaedic specialist for your back pain and other orthopaedic issues, so that the underlying cause can be diagnosed and appropriate treatment started. If you are struggling with back pain, contact Dr James Tan at Ray of Health in Singapore for a complete assessment and diagnosis. with Dr Tan today.

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About The Author

dr james tan

Dr James Tan Chung Hui

Dr James Tan is a skilled orthopaedic surgeon at Quantum Orthopaedics who has more than 10 years of experience in sports surgery and exercise medicine in Singapore. Apart from partnering with the industry to introduce various treatment techniques, Dr Tan has treated athletes from the Singapore National Teams and professional footballers from the Singapore Premier League and the Young Lions.

Dr Tan specialises in treating sports injuries of the knee, shoulder and elbow joints, as well as cartilage and meniscus surgery. He is a member of the elite Asian Shoulder and Elbow Group and a founding member of the Singapore Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Society.

Qualifications and Achievements
MBBS - National University of Singapore (NUS), Faculty of Medicine
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (MRCS)
MMed - Master of Medicine in Orthopaedic Surgery (NUS)
Fellow of Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh)
Adjunct Assistant Professor | NUS, LKC
Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgery, Sports and Exercise Medicine
Head of Department | Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Centre
Principal Investigator of Tissue Engineering
National Medical Research Council grants
Collaboration with Scientists at NTU, TUM, A*Star, Osteopore & Trendlines Medical Singapore


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