Staying motivated when you are overcome with back pain

By Sherwin Nicholson | May 4, 2020

keeping motivation when in pain

Don’t let the pain bring you down.  Focus instead on your goal to overcome it.

Whether you are looking for a treatment, learning one, or using one to maintain your health, motivation is paramount.

To stay motivated, you must adopt ideal reasons in which to be motivated.

Regardless of the choices that you make, it is up to you and only you to keep your commitment.  You know your body and its limitations better than anyone else.

Initial Motivators to Overcome Your Back Pain

There are many ways to motivate yourself to overcome your pain, and some ways work better than others.  Here are some you might follow:


It is initially a good motivator to overcome lower back problems and it’s what most of us use first.  It is certainly the most common cause.  Even though it is a reason, it varies with your herniated disclevel of injury, so it is not a reliable source to follow.

Here is why.  You may have days where you are either in severe pain or just a milder and easier to manage form.  Because of this, your efforts WILL vary.  It is similar to the effect of neglecting to complete your course of antibiotics after your initial symptoms of infection have seem to have disappeared.

I am a very big advocate that exercise should be your number one priority as a form of treatment for back pain.

Because exercising always takes effort, the tendency to perform it less as you become better is natural.   So completing your exercise program with the same manner to following a course of antibiotics is what you should do.  Completing a ‘back protective’ program is important because symptoms usually decrease before adequate healing and reconditioning has happened.

You may feel better during the treatment, but it takes much longer for the injury to your disc, inflammation and damage to your muscles and joints to heal.

If you discontinue your treatment, the method that you are using to treat your back can fail, and your pain will return.

Don’t Allow Muscle Weaknesses to Discourage You

When you have increasing back issues and pain, your body becomes very sensitive to excessive movements.  You end up physically altering the way you move in order to avoid hurting.

This is a serious concern because you are no longer favor moving in a healthy fashion but rather in a defensive and guarded one.  This problematic way to move causes you to limit the way that you really should be using both your upper but especially your lower body.

The real key to overcoming your pain is to favor using your lower body as often as possible when it comes to lifting, leaning, bending, reaching or anything that you’ll need to do in your daily routine.  The less that you use your lower body, the weaker that it will become.  This only makes your upper body work harder and contributes further to your imbalances.

This imbalance makes up a great deal of the dangerous cycle of chronic lower back pain.  Consequently, when the pain becomes worse, you likely become more discouraged and will lose further motivation.

However, once you can identify this clear pattern for yourself, you can help to stop it from repeating and thereby will avoid these pitfalls that can make you prone to becoming unmotivated.

Family and Friends

Although motivation starts with you, you are never alone.

Get the help of family members or friends as part of your treatment plan.  Don’t make excuses or isolate yourself ever!

They are some of the best motivators.  Request their support to keep you motivated at times when you are not.  In times when you are deeply discouraged, they do keep you going.disc-disease

Once you have their attention and commitment, your goals become more serious and accountable.

Be careful not to rely on them as a prime source of motivation, because they too have challenges of their own.  Their help may be limited and in a way really should be.  No teacher, coach or motivational source outside of yourself will be able to consistently help you at all times.

You will find yourself being reminded by them that they will only want to help you only if your drive is also as great, if not greater.  Their initial desire to motivate you comes from your willingness to have them help you.

Negative Aversions

What this means is that you are willing only to help treat your discomfort mainly out of pride or arrogance.  You don’t want to appear weak or helpless to others, so you motivate yourself to avoid the discomfort of failure.

As much as we all want to remain self-sufficient, healthy and independent, the drive to do so should not be out of a self-competing nature. It is not a philosophical issue. It is a health issue.

Competition is important when there is a specific goal.  Without one, it becomes self-consuming and self-destructive.  This is a primary reason some of us have issues in the first place.  Are you simply trying to avoid failure?  Your goal is to preserve the integrity of your spine.  You can still be very competitive if your activities share this goal.

Although it pays to know the statistics on back problems, don’t let it be an obstacle to worry about.  Focus on your own personal goals instead.

External Concerns

Your Career, Employment, Finances, Love of Physical Activity, Dependents, Etc., are all necessary, external, motivational factors. There really is no debate as to whether or not they are important.

There is another factor that is important to include when using these motivators.  They must NOT directly add any undue risk of injury to your lumbar spine.

To be motivated in something which is also causing you harm is contradictory, risky and somewhat masochistic. Yes, there are times where our careers and activities do add risk, but by becoming more aware of the risks, you should not let it cause harm.

The Motivational Factors Needed

All of the sources of motivation mentioned although important, do have their limitations.  Even though they are powerful motivators, it is the flaws that sabotage them in the long term.  It is also likely that these flaws will become the excuse or reason that the motivation is lost.

One of the best motivator to treat and overcome the pain is this:

Respect for Your Body

To be more specific, respectfully caring for your lumbar spine.

This may not seem like the magic bullet or beautiful answer that we may have wanted to hear but it is true.

It sections of your spineis neither a lecture nor a criticism either.

We don’t intentionally disrespect our bodies either.  We are all trying to find the best possible solution to help our back issues with the best intentions.

We all have back pain for many different reasons.  Some well beyond our control.  So this motivational factor may not be sufficient to some.

Staying motivated should be done regardless of what has happened to you to lead you to your current situation.  You may need to reach a stage in your life where your focus and commitment to caring for your back is deeply motivated by your unselfish concern of it.

The ONLY way that your body physically can bring this to your attention is by sending pain signals.  The mildest and temporary forms being the most crucial to pay attention to.   Any signals after that are usually from damage that has already occurred.

A New Perspective For You That Works

If you knew of someone very close to you performing something you know to be risky where they could injury themselves, would you not step in to help them?

If they did not respect your advice to protect themselves external rotators stretchand merely gave excuses such as those mentioned above, would you not be MORE concerned for them?

Because you are aware that their actions or motivations may be harmful, and that you care about them, would you not then be motivated to help them?

What would be your advice to them before they harm themselves?

Why not see yourself from this perspective?

Perhaps you can see yourself as the person who does not want to add to the increasing costs in health care.

You are not only motivating yourself to overcome your current pain, but everything that is causing you to continue suffering, both in the present and in the future.  This perspective sets a new standard that you cannot help but follow and uphold.  Not out of fear, pride or selfishness.  But out of genuine respect for your body.

For more help on motivation and obstacles to effective relief, see:

Try these simple exercises to help motivate you

Questions to ask yourself when are not sure what to do

The difficulty with stretching may be with our attitute

Do you have struggles about exercising to relieve pain?


  1. Individual and intervention-related factors associated with adherence to home exercise in chronic LBP: a systematic review. – Beinart NA(1), Goodchild CE, Weinman JA, Ayis S, Godfrey EL. 1. Spine J. 2013 Dec;13(12):1940-50. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2013.08.027. Epub 2013Oct 26.
  2. Management of chronic LBP – Nikolai Bogduk Med J Aust 2004; 180 (2): 79-83.
  3. Self-management education en masse: effectiveness of the Back Pain: Don’t Take It Lying Down mass media campaign – Rachelle Buchbinder Med J Aust 2008; 189 (10 Suppl): S29.
  4. Persistent BP and sciatica in the United States: patient characteristics. – Long DM1, BenDebba M, Torgerson WS, Boyd RJ, Dawson EG, Hardy RW, Robertson JT, Sypert GW, Watts C. J Spinal Disord. 1996 Feb;9(1):40-58. Author information