Exercise and fitness can make a
big difference to back pain.
Unfortunately back pain tends to deter exercise,
but medical opinion is now firmly in favour of movement and exercise
as part of back care.
a form of exercise suitable for your fitness level - if you are
a beginner, work up gradually.
|| Don't do much in your first few days. Your tolerance
will be very low at first, and if you do too much you won't be
able to do anything the next day. Also, you will be put off.
an exercise that you enjoy. You will be more likely to continue.
|| Don't do impact sports like running, at least to start
to stretch. Stretches should be done slowly and gently, without
jerks or excessive force. Don't just copy others, especially
athletes! To get it really right, book a session with a physiotherapist.
|| Don't do sports which make you bend your back, or move
suddenly, like cycling or squash, until your back is fully recovered.
if an activity creates increasing pain in your back. Find a different
sport until you are fitter.
|| Don't waste money on a home workout machine. Most
people quickly stop using them because they are so boring.
good quality trainers. These are excellent for reducing impact
forces with the ground, which otherwise generate a shockwave
up the back.
|| Don't avoid lifting altogether. Moderate loads on
your back are needed to build up fitness in the back muscles.
But lift correctly.
|| Don't play competitive team games to start with - you may
be tempted to overdo it, or you might hurt your back in a collision.
The best type and intensity of exercise is different
according to your condition, your fitness and the state of your
need some exercise, but not too much. That's why you may
be given conflicting advice by different experts. If that
happens, learn the broad principles and then go your own way -
it's your body and only you can feel it.
The key is to
start gently, choose your sports carefully, and gradually develop
a more strenuous regime. Getting fit is a stress/recovery process,
while most bad backs result from too much or
too prolonged stress, with incomplete recovery.
Your exercise "sweet spot" will be unique to you, and
will change as you get fitter and your back heals.
Find something that you enjoy and that can be easily incorporated into
your daily life. This can be easy to achieve, for instance: if you normally
get the bus to work, try getting an earlier one and getting off a few
stops earlier. Park your car further away from your destination and walk.
When going out to lunch, try to find a restaurant that is within walking
distance. Walk up or down stairs instead of taking the lift.
is a good exercise for back sufferers since it strengthens
the muscles while your body is supported by water. Swim crawl with side
breathing rather than breaststroke, because breaststroke can put strains
on the neck and back (and on your knees too). Aqua-aerobics is probably
an especially good start. Your local leisure or community centre probably
exercise and swimming classes.
Here are some starter exercises
to strengthen your muscles - they are too boring to keep up for
long, but they enable you to exert close control
over back stress and pain, while you build up some initial muscle
Don't persevere with anything
that makes your back pain worse. Do a little every day,
not a lot every few days.
Stand with your back against a wall and feet shoulder-width apart.
Slide down into a crouch with knees bent. Count
to five and slide back up the wall. Repeat 5 times.
- Wall slides to strengthen back, hip, and leg muscles
- Leg raises to strengthen back and hip muscles
Lie on your stomach. Tighten the muscles in one leg and raise it
from the floor. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it
to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat five times
with each leg.
- Leg raises to strengthen stomach and hip muscles
Lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Lift one leg off
the floor. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it to the
floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat five times with each
leg. If that is too difficult, keep one knee bent and the foot flat
on the ground while raising the leg.
- Back leg swing to strengthen hip and back muscles
Stand behind a chair with your hands on the back of the chair.
Lift one leg back and up while keeping the knee straight. Return
slowly. Raise other leg and return. Repeat five times with each
Exercises to help
flexibility in your back
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on your bed
or floor. Raise your knees toward your chest. Place both hands under
your knees and gently pull your knees as close to your chest as
possible. Do not raise your head. Do not straighten your legs as
you lower them. Start with five repetitions, several times a day.
Stand with your feet slightly apart. Place your hands in the small
of your back. Keep your knees straight. Bend backwards at the
as far as is comfortable, and hold the position for one or two seconds.
- Single/double Knee to chest
Lie on back with both knees bent. Bring one knee to chest, grasp
knee with both hands, pull as close to the chest as you can. Lower
knee back to starting position. Repeat with other leg.
Lie on stomach with palms by shoulders as if to do a push-up. Slowly
push shoulders up while keeping pelvis in contact with the surface;
back and buttocks relaxed. Slowly lower shoulders. Move cautiously
for several repetitions and then move more vigorously as tolerated.
Lock elbows, exhale, and let the lower back sag while sustaining
the up position for several seconds during last few repetitions.
Why exercise is good for your back:
abdominal and back muscles are toned, they work together like a natural
corset for your back, providing support and improving posture.
muscles have better fine control and more power in reserve, giving smoother
motion during lifting and moving.
postpones fatigue, helping you avoid tired habits like not lifting correctly.
makes bones denser and stronger.
stretching, exercise increases flexibility, helps you use good postures
for lifting and sitting.
you lose weight and stop smoking! Excess body weight and smoking
are bad for backs.
improves blood circulation, and so enhances nutrition and recovery processes
in your back.