Best and Worst Exercises For Back Pain- Don't Do These!

The Best and Worst Exercises for Back Pain

Back Pain

If you think treating a backache means going to bed or taking it easy, you couldn’t be more wrong. According to the Mayo Clinic, most acute back pain resolves within a few weeks with home treatment, and bed rest is not recommended.

Exercise is one of the best ways to get rid of back pain and keep it from returning. “There is an exercise for almost anyone with back pain. We even start people on exercise the day after back surgery,” says Maria Mepham, a physical therapist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. But there are some types of workouts for bad back pain that are more beneficial than others.

Whether from an injury or degenerative disease (such as osteoarthritis), most cases of back pain can be reduced with regular exercise and tailored workouts. Stretching, strengthening, and conditioning exercises can result in stronger muscles that support the spine and your body’s weight. When your body’s skeleton is supported, you are less likely to suffer injury and back pain.

Studies confirm that when back pain sufferers start a regular exercise program, including resistance exercise or strength training, they are more likely to have less pain, and be able to return to work and be active again.

Here are five ways workouts for back pain can help:

  • Strong muscles give support to the back.
  • Strong abdominal muscles improve posture.
  • Increased flexibility aids in movement.
  • Stronger bones prevent fractures.
  • Exercise boosts natural endorphins in the body.

There are many types of exercise recommended for back pain, including:

  • Biking
  • Daily activities such as housecleaning and gardening
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Resistance exercises
  • Stationary cycling
  • Stretching exercises
  • Swimming
  • Tai chi
  • Walking
  • Water exercises
  • Yoga

Before you get started — check with your doctor or therapist — if you haven’t exercised much in the past, start slowly and work your way up gradually. If you have pain or low back pain after working out stop and call your doctor.

One of the worst mistakes is trying to do too much too soon. Always leave time for warm-up and cool-down before and after workouts for back pain. “Let your doctor or therapist know if any exercise makes your back pain worse,” says Mepham.

The good news is that back pain can be prevented. Improper body mechanics such as incorrect posture or lifting heavy objects often leads to back pain. Knowing this, be aware of how you sit, lift, bend, twist and walk. Make sure your workplace uses ergonomically correct furniture, and ask for help if you need to move a heavy object. 

Support Your Spine With Workouts for Back Pain


You need to take care of the core muscles that support your spine. There are many workouts for back pain that do this, and your doctor or therapist should be able to give you specific advice and training for your unique back pain condition.

“A good example of a safe strengthening exercise is the pelvic tilt,” says Mepham. To do this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent. Tighten your stomach muscles until you can press the small of your back flat against the floor. Hold the press for about five seconds and repeat up to 10 times.

“Keeping your core muscles limber is as important as keeping them strong,” says Mepham. “Two good stretching exercises are the knee-to-chest and the hamstring stretch.”

To do the knee-to-chest, lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring one knee up to your chest and use your hands to pull the knee close while flattening out your back; then repeat with the other knee. The hamstring stretch is done from the same starting position.

Pick up one leg with both hands placed behind your knee and then straighten your lower leg. These stretches should be held for about 20 seconds and repeated five times. Be sure to warm up before you stretch.

Stretches to avoid: “One of the worst stretches for a person with back pain is bending over to touch your toes while keeping your legs straight. Even worse is bouncing while trying to touch your toes,” warns Mepham. Other bad workouts for back pain are ones that require you to bend or twist with any type of weight in your hand.

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