back pain exercise

Resources | Health News | Therapies | Fitness


Back Pain and Exercise


Exercise is usually not advisable for acute back pain, but proper exercise can help ease chronic pain and perhaps reduce the risk of it returning. The following four types of exercise are important to general physical fitness and may be helpful for certain specific causes of back pain:

Flexion: The purposes of flexion exercises, which are exercises in which you bend forward, are to (1) widen the spaces between the vertebrae, thereby reducing pressure on the nerves; (2) stretch muscles of the back and hips; and (3) strengthen abdominal and buttock muscles. Many doctors think that strengthening the muscles of the abdomen will reduce the load on the spine. One word of caution: If your back pain is caused by a herniated disc, check with your doctor before performing flexion exercises because they may increase pressure within the discs, making the problem worse.

Extension: With extension exercises, you bend backward. They may minimize radiating pain, which is pain you can feel in other parts of the body besides where it originates. Examples of extension exercises are leg lifting and raising the trunk, each exercise performed while lying prone. The theory behind these exercises is that they open up the spinal canal in places and develop muscles that support the spine.

Stretching: The goal of stretching exercises, as their name suggests, is to stretch and improve the extension of muscles and other soft tissues of the back. This can reduce back stiffness and improve range of motion.

Aerobic: Aerobic exercise is the type that gets your heart pumping faster and keeps your heart rate elevated for a while. For fitness, it is important to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic (also called cardiovascular) exercise three times a week. Aerobic exercises work the large muscles of the body and include brisk walking, jogging, and swimming. For back problems, you should avoid exercise that requires twisting or vigorous forward flexion, such as aerobic dancing and rowing, because these actions may raise pressure in the discs and actually do more harm than good. In addition, avoid high-impact activities if you have disc disease. If back pain or your fitness level make it impossible to exercise 30 minutes at a time, try three 10-minute sessions to start with and work up to your goal. But first, speak with your doctor or physical therapist about the safest aerobic exercise for you.


References and Sources: Medline, Pubmed, National Institutes of Health.


last update: April 2009


This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this material to diagnose or treat a health condition or disease without consulting with your healthcare provider.
Privacy Policy  © 1998-2017 Personal Health Zone
Click above for Service Agreement and Contact Information. Accessing this service binds you to terms stated. Advertisements appear throughout this website as a means of funding the site. This site is updated monthly and operates independently of any health associations or organizations. The owner of this site has no medical training and the information presented comes from government resources and health professionals in their respected fields.

Home Page: Personal Health Zone
HONcode accreditation seal. We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.