Best and Worst Exercises For Back Pain Sufferers

November 11, 2016


Health and Recovery


Nicole West

It may seem strange to exercise when you're suffering from back pain, but the fact is that moving is necessary to rehabilitate your spine and decrease the pain. In the short term, seeking medical advice will determine how long you should rest for and when you can begin a program of controlled exercise, to keep your muscles, discs and ligaments healthy.

To minimise the risk of reoccurring back pain and avoid future injuries, exercise helps to strengthen your back, stomach and leg muscles, for better support. Focusing on aerobic fitness and muscle groups that support your back helps, but you also need to avoid exercises that place excessive strain on your body.

Exercises to avoid:

Any exercise that creates prolonged discomfort should be avoided, when you're already experiencing back pain. Here's a look at some of the most common workouts to stay away from.

High-impact aerobic exercise

Any high-impact activity can put excessive stress on your back, therefore aggravating pain. This includes running, jogging, dancing, jumping and aerobics classes. The repetitive nature of fast-paced movement can put unnecessary pressure on your lower back, increase symptoms and lead to further injuries.

Toe Touches

Toe touches are a common exercise for flexibility, however when done from a standing position, you run the risk of overstretching your lower back muscles and hamstrings, while putting stress on the discs and ligaments in your spine.


Doing sit-ups is one of the best ways to strengthen your abdominal muscles, when you do them correctly. But unless you're an expert, or have professional advice, they're best avoided when you're experiencing back pain. Repeatedly flexing your spine can actually damage discs and cause injuries.

Exercises to try:

Always stretch before exercising, as a way to warm up your body and decrease back pain. All stretching should be slow and pain free, allowing your muscles to become loose.

Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise

As long you don't experience pain in the process, low-impact exercises such as swimming, brisk walking and cycling work large muscle groups in your body, which, in turn, helps to support your back.

Wall Sits

Done correctly, wall sits help to strengthen your back, thighs and core, which leads to a lowered risk of injury and pain. All you need to do is lean against a wall and slowly slide down to a sitting position, hold for a count of 10 and slide back up. Be careful to ensure your lower back is pressed flat against the wall the entire time.


Knee to Chest

This stretching exercise can help to reduce pain immediately, while cultivating flexibility. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Bring one knee to your chest, while keeping your other foot on the floor. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat with the other leg. Make sure your lower back remains pressed flat to the floor during the exercise. 


Pilates and Yoga

Woman doing a yoga pose on rooftop terrace

Both Pilates and Yoga combine core abdominal exercises, stretching and strengthening, to help you combat back pain. Check out centres in your local area and choose from various modalities to suit your physical fitness. 


Another great video with stretches and exercises for back pain can be seen here.


As with any new exercise, tell the instructors about your current or previous issues with back pain, so a program can be structured to help your individual problems. When you implement a strategic plan to alleviate back pain, you'll be well on your way to enhanced fitness, mobility and health.

Nicole West

Nicole is a professional writer & novelist from Australia featured in sites including Huffington Post & Lifehack. Nicole has written for Smith's Lawyers on health and injury recovery topics.