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Home > Alternative Therapy > Exercise Body work > Exercise Back Pain

Exercise - Back Pain


People suffering from back pain often avoid exercising certain muscles because movement can hurt. But strengthening muscles despite discomfort can diminish pain by improving muscle tone, strength, flexibility, and endurance. Exercise can also bolster your sense of control over your body. Workouts can also ease pain by facilitating the release of neurotransmitters called endorphins, the natural painkillers in the body.

You should set up a specific goal for the day and try to attain it, however much it hurts. A beginning goal might be to walk half a block a day and increase the distance gradually over time. Doctors and physical therapists can help determine safe and effective ways to recondition your bodies. Initially, it will hurt. The muscles have not been used for a long time. The pain signifies that the muscle being exercised has been weakened by lack of use. Gentle stretching exercises such as yoga are very useful.

Learn to pace your activities. Rest only after attaining your goals for the day. In other words, do not stop as soon as the exercise begins to hurt. Using a chart to monitor exercise and keep track of progress can help you increase your physical functioning in a careful, gradual way. Gradually, you will learn to become more active without increasing your level of pain.

Here are some suggested exercises
  • Aerobic exercise for at least thirty minutes, three to four times per week
  • Stretching exercises daily.


Stretching is more important for the relief of back pain than strengthening exercises. The key is to find what muscles or muscle groups are asymmetrically tight or imbalanced, causing postural problems and strain leading to back pain. One of the most common muscles associated with this kind of back pain problem is the rectus femoris. This muscle runs from above the hip down through the kneecap into the front of the tibia (the inner, longer bone of the leg between the knee and ankle). If the muscles in both legs are tight, it can produce, what doctors call, an anterior pelvic tilt, where the whole pelvis leans forward. This often results in a lordosis in the back or an excess amount of lumbar curve. This condition is commonly referred to as sway back.

Chair exercise: Sit in chair and lean forward until pain is felt; breathe out and slowly lean farther, stretching muscles further.

Stand and put the knee of the leg you want to stretch on the seat of a chair. Hold on to the back of the chair with the opposite hand for balance. Pull the heel of the leg you want to stretch to the buttocks, and push forward with the pubic bone. This will push the pelvis backward, and you'll feel the stretch all the way from the knee, up the leg to the front of the thigh.

Knee pulls: Sit in a straight-backed chair. Lift your right knee and clasp it in both hands and pull it as close to your chest as possible. Exhale deeply as you feel tension or mild pain in your back. Do the same with your left leg. Do several repetitions.

Do the same exercise while lying on mat placed on the floor. While lying on the mat, pull both knees toward your chest. Breathe out as you pull your knees toward your chest and as you feel the tension.

Pelvic Jack: The Pelvic Jack is another easy stretch to help with low back pain. You can do this while sitting in a chair. Simply sit up straight, back against the chair back so that you have the normal low back curve. Then just allow your pelvis to roll back as if you were going to slouch into the chair. Hold that for a few seconds and then come back up into the straight position with the normal lumbar curve.


Reverse ankle pull: Stand at the back of a straight-backed chair. Bring your right ankle up behind you, grasp it with your right hand, and gently but firmly pull upward toward your back so that your thigh muscles stretch. Exhale as you pull. Do the same with both legs.

Another very effective stretching posture is the "Cat-Cow" yoga position, where you're on your hands and knees, and you alternately drop your back into a sway back position, and then arch it like a cat. You can learn more about yoga stretching exercises and breathing exercises that had been proven effective in combating back pain in our yoga section.

Frequently, a person suffering from extreme acute back pain can't move much, or is stiff in the morning or has trouble getting out of bed. Here is how to do the stretch:

Lie flat on your back, perhaps with a pillow under the knees so as not to put too much of a strain on the lower back.

Alternately push one foot out and then the other. You don't really have to be pushing against anything. What you are doing is pushing out with your heel. It is like you're trying to make your leg longer. What you're doing actually is rocking the pelvis back and forth instead of from front to back as in the Pelvic Rock.

Press-ups. Press-ups are something like half of a push-up. It is a great exercise to strengthen your lower back. Lie on the floor on your stomach. Keep your pelvis flat on the floor and push up with your hands, arching your back as you lift your shoulders off the floor. Do press-ups once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Crunch sit-up. Lie flat with both feet on the floor and your knees bent. Cross your arms and rest your hands on your shoulders. Raise your head and shoulders off the floor as high as you can while keeping your lower back on the floor. Hold for 1 second, then repeat.

Swim on dry land. This is great for extending and strengthening your lower back. Lie on your stomach and raise your left arm and your right leg. Hold for 1 second, then alternate with your left leg and right arm as if you were swimming.

Swimming. Swimming is great exercise for the back. A good exercise for acute low back pain is to get into a warm pool and swim.

Caution: Know your limit. If the exercise you're doing hurts or aggravates your condition, stop immediately.

Make sure that before you stretch any muscles it must absolutely be relaxed. It must be relaxed in order for it to stretch at all. Do the stretch, hold it for five to ten seconds, then release and relax for five to ten, then go back into the stretch and hold it for five to ten seconds.

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