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What Exercises Should You Avoid With Lower Back Pain

Avoid Motions That Cause Pain

5 Exercises to AVOID with Lower Back Pain & Sciatica

If youre performing an exercise and your back starts hurting, stop performing that exercise. Jot it down on your list of pain triggers and avoid that exercise from now on.

Experiencing any pain while working out is a sign you should stop whatever it is youre doing and rethink your plan. Your goal is to always be in a pain-free zone. If you leave that zone, it means youre doing something that is causing you pain, even if you dont have a back injury. If it doesnt feel good or causes discomfort, stop doing it.

Pain Relief: Try Partial Crunches

One of the classic core-strengthening workouts is the partial stomach crunch. Partial crunches build strength in both your lower back and related stomach muscles, making this an ideal exercise for people with spondylosis.

Here’s how to get the most out of partial crunches:

  • Lie back, and keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent.
  • With your hands behind your head or with arms crossed around your chest, raise your shoulders from the floor. Make sure to keep your stomach muscles tight.
  • Breath out while raising your shoulders. Avoid leading with your elbows .
  • Hold for one second. Next, lower yourself back down to the floor in a controlled manner.
  • Repeat with between eight and 12 repetitions.Remember to follow proper form, which prevents excessive spine stress. Keep your feet, tailbone, and lower back against the floor throughout the exercise.

Back Pain Training Keys

If you have persistent lower back pain, you can still exercise. The key thing is managing risk in all your exercise choices. Theres inherent risk in any exercise and really in any movement period but what you must do if you have back pain is avoid exercises with a ton of inherent risk.

In the long term, as you build more and more core strength, your back will grow stronger in more and more positions. But when youre starting out with lower back pain, you need to minimize body positions that place the lower back at risk.

That means thinking carefully about a few ideas.

Rounding Your Back

A rounded lower back is a position you dont want to be in with lower back pain. Avoid it by avoiding motions that have your shoulders falling below your hips. If your shoulders are always above your hips, its harder to round in the lower back.

Twisting At the Lower Back

Your body is meant to be able to twist and turn . But if youre dealing with back pain, such twists can be a source of pain. This doesnt mean you shouldnt twist, but you need to maintain control of those twists and that can be challenging to do from certain positions and while holding weights in certain ways.

Arching Your Lower Back

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What To Do With Lower Back Pain

Somewhere between total bed rest and exercising through lower back pain is a middle ground, or a sweet spot like the one Goldilocks aimed to find. If there are red flags of pain, curtail what you are doing. Your goal should be to work around the pain, not through it. Find other ways to stay active that dont make the pain worse or might cause further injury.

Do Instead: Walking Swimming Or Yoga

Four exercises to avoid if you have back pain  and what to do instead ...

As you already know, you can benefit from stretching and exercising and whats more, relieve your back pain. However, always keep in mind, that even simple at-home strengthening and stretching exercises must be done properly! Otherwise, you can harm yourself and worsen your back pain. If you have any questions about the kind of exercises you should do for your back pain or whether you need medical attention, visit a spine specialist.

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Dont Add Additional Weight To Your Spine

Lifting weights above your head or adding any type of weight to your shoulders should be strictly avoided if you are experiencing any pain in your lower back. Weights that tend to compress your spinal column are likely to further damage your back, possibly leading to a long term injury. Although some weight lifting activities that isolate the muscles in your arms or legs may still be safe, its important to work with a personal trainer to make sure you are protecting your lower back muscles.

Stay Ahead Of Lower Back Pain

Back pain can be a very frustrating experience, especially if youre used to maintaining a certain level of activity.

Reach out for help to the appropriate medical professionals to manage your pain and take out the guesswork to learn how to exercise with lower back pain in a safe way.

Maintaining a healthy fitness program is the key to keep moving and decrease risk factors for injuries and other health issues. Movement isnt bad. Bad movement is bad.

Learn everything you can. Dont take a back seat to your health care.

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Dreisinger TE. Exercise in the management of chronic back pain. Ochsner J. 2014 14:101-107.

Gordon R, Bloxham S. A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain. Healthcare . 2016 4:22. Published 2016 Apr 25. doi:10.3390/healthcare4020022 . Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care 2006-. Low back pain: Why movement is so important for back pain. 2012 Feb 9 . Available from:

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Try Instead: Towel Hamstring Stretches

Lie on your back with one knee bent. Wrap a towel around the foot of your other leg and use it to pull the leg up. Straighten the knee as you bring that leg up. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side. Be sure to keep your back flat on the floor during this stretch.

Dont let pain stop you from moving! Talk to your chiropractor if you have any questions or concerns.


1 Callaghan JP, Gunning JL, McGill SM. The relationship between lumbar spine load and muscle activity during extensor exercises. Physical Therapy. 1998 78:8-18.

2 McGill SM. Low back disorders: evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics 2007.

Tips To Protect Your Lower Back

Exercises To Avoid if You Have Low Back Pain | For Women Over 40

The marvelous strength and flexibility that’s engineered into your lower back also makes it susceptible to developing lots of problems. And because of the many nerves that run throughout your spine and into the rest of your body, a problem in the lower back can lead to leg pain, hip problems, and more.

Learn more about the anatomy of your lower spine. Watch:Lumbar Spine Anatomy Video

Protecting your lower back involves taking measures to avoid direct injury, prevent indirect trauma, and control the progression of a problem that may have already occurred.

Here are 7 proven tips that can go a long way in protecting and stabilizing your lower back.

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Experience Lower Back Pain Relief Contact Us Today

Following these suggestions above can help reduce lower back pain during exercise. If you find your back pain is intolerable with or without exercise, International Spine Institute can help. Our goal is to offer the least invasive procedure options for each patients individual needs. We tailor treatment to provide each of our patients with a quicker recovery and pain-free lifestyle.

Contact us today to get the lower back pain relief you deserve by calling 225-313-4700 or completing our online form.

Try Instead: Single Leg Raises

While lying on your back, bend one knee with your foot flat on the ground and keep the other leg straight. Slowly lift the straight leg up and hold. Lower your leg slowly. Repeat 10 times and repeat with the other leg. Remember to keep your back flat on the floor the entire duration of the exercise.

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Exercises To Strengthen And Relieve Pain

Core and back strength is incredibly important when it comes to low back pain. The following exercises are designed to help you strengthen these areas and ease the pain in your back. Well begin with the easy ones and move on to the more difficult ones.

Note: Most of these exercises require that you engage your ab muscles. The proper form calls for a drawing-in of the muscles, instead of a bulging-out. Your lower stomach should flatten in a little bit. If youre pushing your abs out, youre likely over-flexing.

Exercises You Should Avoid:

Senior Exercises That Help Strengthen Your Lower Back
  • ABDOMINAL CRUNCHES: This type of exercise put a lot of pressure on the lower back. According to Harvard Medical School, “One reason is that sit-ups are hard on your back – they push your curved spine against the floor and work your hip flexors, the muscles that run from the thighs to the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. When the hip flexors are too strong or too tight, they tug on the lower spine, which can create lower back discomfort.” So, if you have back pain you should definitely avoid this exercise.
  • BAR BACK SQUATS: Squats are a highly effective strengthening exercise. It is unfortunate that occasionally they can contribute to injury. The squat is one of the most basic human movements and calls upon the bodys largest muscles, including your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. There are different variations of the squat, but in barbell training, two types are the most common: the high-bar squat and the low-bar squat. As the bar is balanced on the back of the shoulders, it can be a dangerous exercise for the lower back, hips, knees even when done with perfection. This exercise should be completely avoided if you have lower back pain.
  • BENT OVER BARBELL ROW: Lifting any type of weight is often not recommended for people who suffer from back pain. Not all movement is good for a lower back injury. First, focus on your root cause and gradually introduce the weights back in. Until you recover from the back pain avoid this exercise.
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    Get Your Lower Back Pain Evaluated

    Dont try to cure your back pain with some generic catch-all advice or something you read on a fleeting social media post.

    Let me explain.

    John has a disc bulge. Sally has an SI joint dysfunction. Both complain of lower back pain. Yet the treatment approaches and what exercises are safe will look different.

    Get evaluated by your doctor and physical therapist to narrow down what youre dealing with and get specific recommendations for you.

    You need to know what youre dealing with before you can start filtering your activities.

    I highly suggest reading How To Prepare For Your First Physical Therapy Appointment for everything to know before you go .

    Lower Back Pain: How Exercise Helps

    You may feel like resting, but moving is good for your back. Exercises for lower back pain can strengthen back, stomach, and leg muscles. They help support your spine, relieving back pain. Always ask your health care professional before doing any exercise for back pain. Depending on the cause and intensity of your pain, some exercises may not be recommended and can be harmful.

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    There Are Different Types Of Back Pain

    Back pain can be acute or chronic . It can feel like a sudden, sharp pain or a dull, constant ache.

    Acute back pain lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Its often caused by an accident, fall, or lifting something thats too heavy. Acute back pain usually gets better on its own, without any treatment. But there may be times when you need to get medical care. Find out when to call a doctor or nurse about back pain.

    Chronic back pain lasts for more than 3 months. Its much less common than acute back pain. Most chronic back pain can be treated without surgery.

    The Worst Abs Exercise For Back Pain: Plank

    Should you avoid exercise to help back pain?

    Why it can be bad: Again, the plank can be a great exercise, but its one that the vast majority of exercisers botch. Back-safe planks should be performed with a posterior tilt, meaning your glutes are maximally contracted and tailbone tucked. This allows the core, as opposed to the lower-back muscles, to take the brunt of the work.

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    Try: Some Pilates Moves

    Pilates combines stretching, strengthening, and core abdominal exercises. Under the instruction of an experienced teacher, it may help some people with back pain. Be sure to tell your teacher about your back pain, because you may need to skip some moves. For further reading, here are more back exercises for women.


    Stretching And Strengthening Are Key To Healing And Preventing Back Pain

    If you suffer from back pain, the range of treatment options can feel overwhelming. The right choice for you depends on what is causing your pain as well as the physical and other demands of your life. For many people, back problems clear up with little or no medical intervention within a few weeks.

    But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything while you are deliberating over treatment options. There’s a lot you can do to ease your pain and speed your healing. An exercise program designed to stretch and strengthen your back and core muscles can help you heal from a bout of acute back pain and help prevent a repeat episode.

    Developing a suitable exercise program best done under expert supervision will help you build strong, flexible muscles that will be less prone to injury. If you have acute back pain, the goal of an exercise program is to help you resume normal activities as soon as possible and to remain symptom-free going forward. If you have chronic back pain, work with your physician to define your desired functional goal, whether it involves being able to take a tour of European museums, play with your grandchildren, or simply sit comfortably.

    Weak back and abdominal muscles can cause or worsen low back pain. That’s why stretching and strengthening your back and abdominal muscles are important not only for treating low back pain, but also for helping to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

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    Not Knowing Your Pain Triggers

    If youre experiencing lower back pain, the last thing youll want to do is go to the gym or start an intense exercise program and begin moving around with the mindset of any exercise is great for me. This is not a good plan. A better plan is to begin understanding what your pain triggers are.

    Start a pain trigger list or write in a pain journal. Write down how your back feels before, during and after working out. By making a habit of logging your pain levels, you can begin understanding which exercises are triggering your pain. When you know this, youll be able to plan a workout around your pain triggers, providing you with relief and avoiding back pain altogether.

    Not Stretching Adequately Or At All Before Working Out

    Should you avoid exercise when you have back pain?

    You can relieve back pain by strengthening your core muscles, but its not enough. Youll want to do some full-body stretching since tight muscles can cause back pain. Pay particular attention to your hamstrings and hips. After each workout, take 10 minutes and stretch. Avoid static stretches at the start of your workout since they can impede your performance.

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    Dissipate Stressors During Everyday Activities

    Even small amounts of stressing on the intricate structures in your lower back can add up and lead to degeneration and pain over time. Here are recommendations on how to reduce everyday stresses to concentrate on your lower back5:

    • Opening a door. While opening a door, stand straight in front of the doorâs handle and pull it perpendicular to your body. Avoid standing on the side of the handle and twisting your trunk while opening the door, which may injure your spinal ligaments.
    • Using a vacuum cleaner. While vacuuming, hold the vacuum cleaner in front of your body with both hands and use small arm movements while cleaning. Holding the vacuum to the side of your body with just one hand results in large arm movements and requires more twisting torque forces on your lower spine.
    • Shoveling snow or while gardening. While shoveling, rest one arm on your thigh while slightly bending the knees. This technique helps prevent large arm movements and prolonged stooping, which significantly loads your lower back.

    Using spine-sparing principles such as these on a daily basis helps prevent chronic injury to the tissues.

    Incorporate An Element Of Instability Into Your Workout

    The slow, controlled movements in exercises like Pilates teach your muscles to move the spine efficiently. The next step is to start exercising in a more variable environment, which develops even more coordination and control.

    In another study, Dr. Moreno Catalá and her collaborators found that adding instability to exercises like balancing on an uneven surface or even working out in a noisy environment was effective at relieving lower back pain.

    Dr. Moreno Catalá said it is less about the amount of muscular strength and more about the ability to finely control the activation and deactivation of all the muscles that stabilize the spine.

    We think the size of the muscle is the most important quality, but its also the quality of activation that is important, she said.

    Choosing sports that include an element of reactivity, whether its hiking on a rocky surface or reacting to a sudden tennis volley, can result in a similar level of muscular development and control. Body weight exercises, such as push-ups, pull-ups, burpees and squats, also help, since they require full-body coordination, rather than the isolated movement of lifting weights.

    Rachel Fairbank is a freelance science writer based in Texas.

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