Exercises for Back Pain Due to Facet Joint Impingement/Osteoarthritis

Exercises for Back Pain Due to Facet Joint Impingement/Osteoarthritis


Aerobic Exercise Recommendations

With facet joint impingement, the best modes of aerobic exercise are:

  •  slow walking
  • stationary cycling
  • Elliptical machine

These exercises are low-impact and promote keeping the spine slightly flexed, which may be more comfortable for those with facet joint impingements.  To receive maximal health benefits, aerobic exercise should be done at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes, 5 days per week.

* Note: If you experience any pain while performing these exercises, stop and move on to the next exercise.

Strengthening Exercise Recommendations

Exercise: Clamshell

  • Start on your left side, knees bent at about a 45 degree angle with legs stacked on top of one another.
  • Keeping your feet together, rotate your right knee towards the sky without rotating your pelvis. Keep your lower leg on the floor.
  • Pause at the top of the motion before slowly returning to the start.  Repeat 12-15 times before switching sides.

Exercise: Mini Squats

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes slightly pointed outwards, holding on to a chair for balance.
  • Bend your knees slightly to sit back into your heels, as though sitting in a chair. Make sure that your knees are not falling inwards beyond your big toe and that your knees do not go in front of your toes.  Keep your feet flat on the ground.
  • Drive back up to standing position through your heels. Perform 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions.

Exercise: Bird-dog

  • Start on all fours, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. If you have sore knees, make sure to kneel on a mat or folded-up towel.  Keep your spine in a neutral position (somebody should be able to balance a drink on your back) and look down, keeping your neck long.
  • Lift your right arm and left leg until they are parallel to the floor. Keep your abdominal muscles tight.  Hold for 5 seconds, trying to stay as still as possible.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. That is one repetition.  Repeat 5-10 times.

Stretching Recommendations

Exercise: Hip flexor stretch

  • Kneel on left knee, with right foot in front. If kneeling is uncomfortable for your knees, kneel on towel or mat.
  • Ensure that your left foot is in line with the left knee.
  • Lean forward into your right knee, while ensuring that your right knee does not go in front of your right ankle.
  • Marginally draw your right hip back and your left hip forward to increase the stretch.
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds before switching sides.

Exercise: One knee to chest

  • Lie down on your back, pulling one knee into your chest by wrapping your hands around your shin or the back of your thigh (whichever is accessible).
  • Keep your head and shoulders relaxed back on the floor.
  • Try and keep the opposite leg straight on the ground with the foot flexed
  • Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

Exercise: Both knees to chest

  • Lie on your back, pulling both knees into chest with your hands around your shins or the back of your thighs.
  • Keep your head and shoulders relaxed back on the floor.
  • You can gently rock back and forth or rock in little circular motions, massaging your lower back.

Exercise: Cat/Cow

  • Start on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips, looking down to keep your neck long.
  • As you exhale, draw your navel in towards your spine and arch your back up towards the ceiling, tucking your chin. Pause.
  • As you inhale, reverse the motion to return to neutral position.  If your body allows for it, lift your tailbone to the sky and lift your neck to look forwards.

Exercise: Child’s pose

  • Start from a kneeling position, with your big toes together and your knees wide apart
  • Sink back to sit on your heels, with your arms extended in front of you
  • With each deep breath, try to relax your hips back onto your heels (you can use your hands to help push you back)
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds before rolling up slowly

Exercise: Foam Rolling

  • If you have access to a foam roller, lie with it perpendicular under your shoulder blades, crossing your arms in front of your chest.
  • Lift your hips off of the floor, using your legs and abdominal muscles, to roll the foam roller down to your mid-back and up again.
  • Exhale as you roll down your spine
  • Continue for 30-60 seconds.
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