Worried About Exercising to Relieve Back Pain? Here is what to do.

Sherwin Nicholson | Updated May 6, 2020

exercise and lower back pain

Avoiding Physical Activity Because of Lower Back Pain?

See Part 2: More Concerns. Is it really a safe treatment for me?

You don’t have to avoid it if there is a better way to do it.

The idea of exercising to relieve pain is not exactly well received.  You probably have many valid reasons for not wanting to consider it.  Your reasons should be respected as not everyone can embrace the need for exercising at any given time.

For instance, if you have a disc problem that involves sharp or intense pain, then you should avoid exercise until your doctor says it is safe.

Most of us who don’t have back problems also prefer not to engage in physical activity because we don’t find pleasure or reward in it.

People who suffer already know what they can or can’t do and have decided where physical activity is on their priority list.

Misconceptions about exercise for back issues

Part of the problem of advising people to do it, is that they may already have misconceptions of what to do.

If you were asked to join a fitness group, you naturally would think of specific, tough, movements that may be performed and decide immediately whether or not you would agree to participate to do them.

When asked to consider exercising to help you find relief, your natural inclination is to be apprehensive since there is a possibility of re-injury or an increase in the risk of injury.

There are many other reasons, but the most common is that the movements will worsen the pain.  This is true but only concerning the type of training that is recommended.

Actually. You should avoid exercise to treat lower back pain. 

The WRONG type that is

If the movement does not:

  • first, provide protective movements for your spine
  • engage the gluteal muscles appropriately and effectively
  • preserve joint flexibility
  • maintain healthy posture and stability
  • prevent muscular imbalances
  • maintain optimal muscle length
  • encourage weaker muscles to develop
  • prevent you from leaning forward without support

 then it is not protective of the spine, discs, and joints and should be avoided.

Avoid specific methods first

This site and the program available is about the type that does not make your problem worse. The primary purpose is not just to help you stay active, but to give you relief.

It’s accomplished through movements, positions and stretches that you perform yourself and at your pace and comfort level.  A fitness or gym type workout is the LAST form to recommend and is not the intention to have relief.

It is vital to promote physical activity.  This consists of a simple position, extension or contraction of a particular muscle group to help condition them so that they function correctly and efficiently.

Not a workout, but rehab

This form can be understood more as a rehabilitation and conditioning treatment.  These practices are similar to what you would be asked to do in a clinical setting such as your doctor’s office or your physiotherapists’ clinic and NOT a fitness centre.

It’s the correct method that is being encouraged here and should be recommended for those already hurting and have concerns.

What to do if you are already sore

When you are already hurting, you know what you can and can’t do.  But do you know what you should do?  Lower back pain progresses over time.  It also worsens for many reasons over time.  Part of the reason is due to the overall conditioning of the muscles we use that play a role to protect our spine.  As your muscular conditioning worsens, so does your level of protection.

Avoidance of injury but not treatment

We then try to avoid any movements which can then further worsen our muscular conditioning.  We eventually reach a point where we avoid anything that can cause more injury such as any form of exercise.  It doesn’t help the injury but only prolongs it.

It is perfectly natural to feel this way, and at many times, it is recommended to avoid any physical strain.  If you are at a point in your life where you believe that your discomfort is a signal not to move to protect your spine,  then there is more to consider.

You are correct in understanding that the pain signals are telling you not to move but you must understand that it is not telling you not to move at all.  Rather, it is telling you to not move in a specific way.

Running out of options?

Sometimes, the discomfort and the injury can be so severe that we have run out of options of which way to move to find relief.  We then choose not to move at all or find help in this case.

If you have run out of options on how to ‘move’ to find relief, then you must create them.  You do not want to remain in a situation where you feel that there no longer is a way to improve your problem.  You risk not only physical harm but emotional and even psychological suffering as well.  Creating options is not easy.

Avoid the wrong options to minimize your issues

Most of us tend to create poor ones, and they are usually the same ones that led to the problem as well.   The risk is that you may just create another ‘version’ of another option that does not work or apply to your relief.

There are many sources of treatment out there that work very well and many that don’t.   Most likely, you have already tried the less helpful ones and not enough of the more practical ones.

A Helpful Option For You

 The Low Back Pain Program offers an option that is very effective because it is designed to correct what you have been doing incorrectly that led to the pain.

You perform these specific movements yourself. They are not intended to worsen your pain but to correct the muscular and joint imbalances and weaknesses that themselves are the cause.

The exercises are functional and practical. They are meant to be performed over time naturally with your daily routine instead of adding to it.  You will notice significant improvement as you commit to them.

For more help about your concerns:

More Concerns About Exercise for Pain Relief. Part 2.

Why it does matter to exercise

The exercises that you can do


  1. Core Training Anatomy – Dr. Abigail Ellsworth. Baker & Taylor Publishing Group, 2010.
  2. www.spine-health.com/conditions/lbp
  3. Evaluation of a specific home program for LBP.-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002801/
  4. Effect of lumbar stabilization and dynamic lumbar strengthening exercises in patients with chronic LBP.-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23525973
  5. Does exercise increase or decrease pain? Central mechanisms underlying these two phenomena. – Lima LV1, Abner TS1, Sluka KA1. J Physiol. 2017 Mar 29. doi: 10.1113/JP273355.

More references on concerns