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Pinched Nerve in Back – Symptoms, Treatment and Exercises

Have you ever had a sore back? Most likely the answer is YES!

At least 80% of Australians will suffer with some form of back pain in their lives.  Some presentations of back pain will have a clear and definitive appearance in time and reason, whereas others may be more insidious and slowly appear over time.

There are many different causes for back pain and understanding what the actual problem is will lead to the best possible treatment and management outcome.

We, as Osteopaths in Melbourne, see patients on a daily basis with back pain. And one of the most common phrases that people use when describing their back pain is that “I have a pinched nerve in my back”.

So what does this actually mean? And how can we help them?

Firstly we like to get to the actual cause of that “pinched nerve” feeling!

Well… back pain can be simple or complex.

Some terms to describe back pain may include:

  • Acute or chronic
  • Dull or sharp
  • Constant or comes and goes
  • Mild or intense
  • Achey or spasmed
  • And of course pinched!

Back pain may be:

  • Unilateral (one sided) or Bilateral (both sides)
  • Central
  • In the lower back, mid back or upper back – or all of the above
  • Refer to the gluteal region (buttock) and down the thigh and leg
  • Cause associated weakness and/or pins and needles in the leg and foot,
  • Cause changes in the bladder or bowel (seek immediate medical attention)

Causes for back pain may include but not be limited to:

  • Kidney related back pain
  • Tumour causing back pain

Treatment for back pain can be varied depending on the cause, nature of pain, and the length of time the patient has been in pain.

Treatment can include:

  • Hands on care such as Osteopathy. In our osteopathic clinic in Melbourne, we use techniques such as
    • Massage
    • Mobilization
    • Articulation
    • Stretching
    • Dry needling
    • Muscle energy techniques
    • Myofascial release
    • Rehabilitation exercises
  • Use of heat or cold packs on the affected area
  • Use of medication, prescribed by your GP or specialist
  • Use of supplements such as magnesium, fish oil and tumeric
  • In more severe or chronic cases, surgery or steroid injections may be recommended

Avery important part of management of back pain includes a rehabilitation program.

Rehabilitation Exercises and Stretching for Back pain may include:

Stretches for the:

  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Hip flexors
  • Adductors
  • Gluteal Muscles

Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and keep breathing and relaxing through the stretch.

If you feel any uncomfortable, different or sharp pain that you stop immediately.

Exercises for back strength, mobility and stability:

Some of the exercises below may also be of benefit to you for your back pain. However, as each patient with back pain has a different reason for them being in pain, the exercises below are only a guide and not necessarily suited to you and your condition.  Please seek advice on whether the exercises below are appropriate for you.

Knee to Chest; Knees Alternating and Knees Together

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor
  2. Gently activate your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles “core muscles”
  3. Take your hands and place them around the side of the left thigh/knee area and bring your left knee towards your chest
  4. Hold for 5-10 seconds, allowing the left hip and lower back to remain comfortable and at ease in this position
  5. Gently lower the left knee and place back in the starting position
  6. Repeat on the other side
  7. Alternate sides approx 5 times – or as comfortable
  8. Then bring both knees into chest and hold for up to 10 seconds
  9. Allow the lower back, chest and upper back to be as relaxed as possible
  10. Remain relaxed and keep breathing!
  11. Repeat with both knees into chest 3-5 times
  12. If there is groin pain with knees towards chest allow the knees to drop out to the side slightly which will take pressure off the groin muscles and hip joints

Back Extension Exercise

  1. Start lying on your stomach with your hands supporting your forehead in a diamond shape.
  2. Gently engage your lower abdominal and gluteal (buttock) muscles
  3. As you exhale, lift your head and upper back up about 5-10 cm from your hands, without allowing your lower back to sink or your abdominals to push into the floor.
  4. Slowly lower down as you inhale
  5. Repeat 6-12 times

Pelvic Tilts

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and hands placed gently across the top and front of the hip bones so you can feel the muscle activation of your “core” muscles
  2. Gently draw your abdominal muscles towards your spine while you keep breathing. This should be a small contraction and not cause you pain
  3. Keep the abdominal muscles activated as you tilt your pelvis forwards and backwards – ie, creating an arch in the lower back and then flattening the lower back. The amount of tilt may vary, depending on pain, immobility, stiffness or muscle strength. Remember to listen to your body!
  4. Repeat 6-15 times each direction, depending on how you are feeling.

Pelvic Lift

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and hands placed gently across the top and front of the hip bones so you can feel the muscle activation of your “core” muscles
  2. Activate your “core” abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles, and gently, using your gluteal (buttock) muscles lift your pelvis/hips off the floor about 5-10cm up as you exhale
  3. Slowly lower down as you inhale
  4. Repeat 5-12 times
  5. Be careful not to sag in the lower back muscles and be aware that you may cramp in the hamstrings if your gluteal muscles aren’t supporting you enough. If this is the case, then lift the hips off the ground a smaller amount and do less repetitions too.


  1. Lie on your left side with you head a neck supported
  2. Bend your knees to a comfortable position and keep knees and feet on top of each other
  3. Do some small pelvic tilts forwards and backwards to give you some spinal support and muscle activation of your “core”
  4. Find a neutral position between the forward and backward tilts of the pelvis while you maintain your “core muscle” activation.
  5. Gently, as you exhale, lift your right knee in an arc like motion from your top gluteal (buttock) muscle as you keep your feet together
  6. Inhale as you gently lower the right knee back towards the other knee
  7. You should feel the muscle work in the right gluteal muscle
  8. Repeat 6- 12 times and then repeat on the other side

Mid-Lower Back Rotations:

  1. Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor/bed, and arms out to the side
  2. Gently contract your abdominal “core” muscles to create some support for the lower back and pelvis
  3. Keep your knees together, keep breathing, and gently lower the knees to the left side (only as far as comfortable) and then to the right side while maintaining your abdominal support.
  4. You will feel nice movement in your mid to lower back with some minor stretching too
  5. Repeat about 8-12 rotations to each side

If you are still in pain and would like to see an Osteopath in Melbourne, don’t hesitate to contact us. We see patients from Melbourne CBD and Melbourne South Eastern suburbs like Elwood, Middle Park, Prahran, Windsor and Caulfield.

Categories: General Information