Exercising With Back Pain: Dos and Don'ts

Exercising With Back Pain: Dos and Don'ts

Unfortunately, repetitive stress and physical overload often strain the lower back pain causing intense agony. Approximately 8% of adults in the US experience back pain because of their daily activities. When experiencing back pain, you may want to sit down and relax to let the pain subside. However, exercising could help you heal if done correctly. 

Exercises can increase blood flow and relax muscles for quicker recovery. But you must understand the dynamics of your back and body to get the best results to avoid creating even more pain. With that in mind, read on to understand the dos and don'ts of exercising with back pain. 

How Can Exercises Help Treat or Worsen Back Pain?

Understanding your back pain, the muscles affected, and the types of moves you should or shouldn't do are vital in managing your pain. There are three types of back pains: flexion, extension, and rotation syndrome. Extension syndrome is the most common because of prolong periods of sitting during work hours. 

Certain exercises relax your back pain muscles and support your spine and the upper body. They also strengthen the leg and stomach muscles, creating an overall effect.


You’ll need to pay attention to how your body feels—and could feel—if you want to exercise with lower back pain. Anticipate your body's reaction through the exercises.

With that in mind, be careful of the strain you place on your lower back when working out as too much will be counterproductive and potentially harmful. 

Visit a physician to gain more insight into your back pain. First, it'll help you know which exercises fit your management plan. Once you’ve done so, experiment with techniques, explore the pool, and use exercise equipment for back pain to improve your workouts. Sometimes all you need is a mat and some little help when exercising with back pain. 

Consider these tips as part of your lower back pain exercises. 

Start With Simple Exercises

Manage your training regime by splitting it into sections and having proper rest between your workouts. Ensure you choose suitable exercises for each session to help you recover and ease the back pain while strengthening your back and body muscles. 

In particular, focus on simple and light exercises during your warm-up and subsequent training to keep back pain at bay. Don't overexert yourself or try to prove a point by choosing something intense as you’re liable to worsen your pain.

Stretch Before Your Exercises

woman stretching in a field

Warm-ups are essential, especially when you have pain or an injury, as they help bring your muscles and body up to speed before starting your sessions. Choose your warm-up carefully, as you need to avoid anything that might aggravate your back pain.

Try stretches that reduce tension and strengthen your back and abdominal muscles. 

Supplement With Chiropractic Care

Many people supplement their back exercises with chiropractic care to manage and eliminate pain. You’ll want to consult with your trainer or a medical expert to determine if this additional layer of back support could be beneficial for you.  

Utilize Water Aerobics and Pool Exercises

The buoyancy of water offers an excellent environment for exercise. It gives you greater levels of joint motion, while water density can even provide sufficient resistance to simulate the effects of weight training. 

Many water-based activities, like water aerobics and pool exercises, can provide much-needed back relief. 

Swimming, pool planks, and pool Spiderman are suitable for your back. They reduce back pain by strengthening your muscles by utilizing the water currents and sheer water force. 

Balance out your activities across land and water for the best results when managing your pain. Consult your trainer to draw up a combined schedule and figure out which pool exercises for back pain are suitable for you. 

older woman doing water aerobics in a pool with instructor

Research Which Exercises Fit Your Back Pain Recovery

You’ll need to do plenty of research to identify exercises that can fit your pain management and relieving goals. Fitness and medical experts can advise you on the most effective techniques to improve your back strength while managing the pain. 

In addition, make sure you know which are the best and worst exercise machines for lower back pain. While elliptical trainers are beneficial, a lying leg press machine is to be avoided.

In the meantime, consider these tips.

Hamstring Stretches

Hamstring stretches help strengthen your back muscles. The different variations are sitting, standing against the bed, and lying on your back against a wall or couch.

The aim is to stretch one leg at a time in a comfortable position with four to five repetitions to strengthen the back muscles and for your hamstring flexibility. 

Lie on your back at the edge of the couch or against the wall. Rest your heel against the wall while holding the other leg using a towel or your hands on the thigh.

Pull your towel or hands to straighten your leg until your foot is parallel to the ceiling. Ensure you aren't uncomfortable and not overstraining your back muscles.

man stretching hamstrings

Partial Crunches

Partial crunches are an excellent alternative to standing toe touches. To start, lie flat on a mat with your knees and arms behind your head. Be sure to plant your feet firmly on the floor.

Raise your head using your arms to strengthen your back and stomach muscles while breathing out. Hold on to that position for a while before lowering your head down. 

Do at least eight repetitions for best results. Avoid using your elbows to raise your head. Instead, always ensure your back and abdomen are firmly planted and in contact with the mat during the exercise, lest you aggravate your back pain

Wall Sits

Wall sits reduce the pressure on your lower back during the exercise. Stand at least 10 inches from the wall and let your back rest against it while pressing the back flat.

Slide down until your knees appear bent, and hold for a while. Then, slide up again to rest before taking on the whole set of eight repetitions. 

Press-Up Back Extensions

Press-up back extensions relieve the tension in your back muscles. First, place your hands under your shoulder while lying on your stomach. Next, push your hands on the floor, stretching your back or relying on your hands and elbows to support your back.

Hold the position for a while before resting. Do eight repetitions of these exercises at least once daily. 

Bird-Dog Exercise

The bird dog exercise helps you with your back response during your movements. It strengthens your back and stomach muscles while enhancing your agility.

Start with your hands and knees on the mat as you engage your abdominal muscles. Then, raise one leg without changing your hip level or tilting your pelvis. 

Lift your opposite arm and level it out with your shoulders. Hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds before resetting and working on the opposite leg and arms.

Repeat this eight to 10 times with different legs to stabilize your back's response to daily activities and exercise.

Be attentive to your breathing, and don't let your back muscles sag, as it'll undo your work and progress made. 

Pelvic Tilts

Pelvic tilts work on your abdominal and pelvic muscles. Lie down with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent. This exercise presses your back against the floor.

Breathe as if to tighten your stomach muscles as you raise your pelvis slightly. Hold on to that position for half a minute before breathing, resting, and repeating the process. 

Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, or biking help you lose weight and relieve back pain. With swimming, the water supports your body through the process, strengthening the back muscles. Improved blood flow from these exercises helps regeneration, reduces tension, and keeps your back muscles healthy for longer. 

The trick to aerobic exercises is starting small and building your resilience and endurance. Utilize different equipment to increase your stretches and strengthen your muscles. What’s the best exercise machine for lower back pain? Many recommend treadmills and elliptical trainers.

Knee to Chest Exercises

Knee-to-chest exercises reduce your back pain. First, lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent.

Next, bring one knee to your chest and hold the position for 30 seconds. Finally, lower your knee and bring the other knee to the chest. Alternate these positions approximately three times. 

Single Leg Raises

Experts recommend single leg raises if you have back pain. They are less strenuous to the abdominal or back muscles. Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Lift one leg to around six inches and hold. Repeat this process with the other leg up to 10 times alternately. 

Lumbar Rotation

woman stretching her back laying on the floor


Lumbar rotations help reduce muscle soreness and tightness, relieving your pain. You’ll first need to lie down with your hands at the back of your head. Once you’re in position, move your bent knees to the side until you feel comfortable in your stretch. 

Hold the position on each side for around 30 seconds while positioning your head in the opposite direction. Monitor your breathing during the exercise for the best results. 


Learning about the don'ts in back pain exercises will help you avoid aggravating your back, leading to further injury or discomfort. So, be sure to follow these tips when exercising with back pain. 

Don't Practice High Impact Moves

High impact and sudden moves like running or jumping can cause unnecessary tension or chronic pain. Given that, tell your instructor about your back pain before any workout session. 

Some exercises require you to start small as you build your back muscles to avoid triggering sharp pains in your weak back muscles. 

Don't Lift Heavy Objects

man with back pain lifting box

Lifting heavy objects above your shoulders puts unnecessary strain on your back muscles, which, in turn, could lead to greater back pain. 

Also, don't lift weights at the gym or place heavy objects on your shoulders, as you'll be increasing the pressure on your spinal discs, which is likely to increase back pain.

Don't Ignore the Pain

Working through back pain is the worst advice you can get from your peers. Pain is your body's response to uncomfortable and dangerous situations.

Ignoring discomfort can aggravate your tissue damage and back pain. Take time to monitor and listen to your body throughout your workout. If you notice your pain levels increase, pull out from the exercise and visit a doctor for further examination. 

Don't Make a Move Without Consultation

woman consulting with male doctor

Always consult with your fitness and medical experts before taking on any exercises when experiencing back pain.

With proper evaluation and examination, you can develop a workout regimen that matches your needs, helping reduce the tension in your body and back muscles. And, thus, provide you with much-needed pain relief.

Avoid These Exercises

Avoid these exercises if you have back pain as they overstrain your tense and sore muscles. In turn, they may cause spasms or aggravate your pain. 

Toe Touches

Standing toe touches where you must bend down and overstretch your back muscles, spinal discs, and ligaments could aggravate your back pain. 

Sit Ups

Situps also strain your spinal discs increasing your injury and aggravated pain risks. Fortunately, if you want to strengthen your abdominal muscles, you have alternative options.

In particular, exercises like partial crunches are a good substitute without the risks of strenuous exercise.

Double Leg Raises

Double leg raises put a lot of strain on your back muscles. Balancing both legs while lying down tends to push your muscles and tissues to the extreme. Instead, consider single-leg raises to achieve the same results but with fewer risks. 

Lifting Weights

man getting ready to lift weight bar

Lifting weights pose health risks even to those without back pain. It usually increases the pressure and strain on the muscles and tissues around your lower back.

However, with the right technique and close supervision, lifting weights could help you manage your back pain. Just remember to never lift alone, ensure the weights you use are suitable for your situation, and know which weight lifting exercises to avoid with lower back pain (such as lifting above your head). 

Moreover, learn how to lift weights and objects properly to avoid unnecessary stress on your lower back and abdominal muscles. 

Final Thoughts

Learn your body's limitations and needs before taking on any exercise when you have back pain. Remember, the goal is to manage your pain and improve how you feel and move. With this comprehensive knowledge of dos and don'ts, you may find relief and get better results when exercising with back pain.