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What Exercises To Avoid With Lower Back Pain

Which Low Back Exercise Is Right For You

5 Exercises to AVOID with Lower Back Pain & Sciatica

If you are experiencing pain on one side of your back or leg, then try the first exercise and monitor symptoms as you exercise. Watch for centralization, which is a decrease in leg or thigh pain and an increase in low back pain. Centralization that occurs while you are performing an exercise is a good sign and indicates that the particular exercise is the correct one for you to be doing.

If your symptoms worsen, fail to centralize, or only centralize partially, move on to the next exercise in the list. Attempt the exercise, and monitor any changes in your symptoms. Remember pain that moves closer to your spine is a good sign.

Before starting any exercise for your back, it is a good idea to check in with your doctor to be sure that exercise is safe for you to do. Your local physical therapist can help you decide on the best exercises for your specific condition.

Avoid: Superman Back Extensions

In this exercise, you begin by lying face down, simultaneously lifting your arms and legs off the ground and holding that position. Most people experience quite a bit of discomfort with this exercise, and research has shown that it creates the highest amount of stress to the joints of the low back.1

Daily Moves To Prevent Low Back Pain

Stretching and strengthening daily is your best bet to delay the next attack of low back pain.

When low back pain flares up, most men can’t do more than grit their teeth, reach for a numbing cold pack, and wait for it to get better. Four out of five of us experience low back pain sometime in our lives, but this common source of suffering is also an opportunity.

“An episode of acute low back pain is a call to action for people who are simply not exercisers,” says Dr. Jeffrey N. Katz, professor of orthopedic surgery and medicine at Harvard Medical School. “It is a good time to make a commitment to exercise when you are starting to feel a bit bettertypically in a few weeks.”

It’s important to understand that exercise is not guaranteed to eliminate back pain however, exercise could make it less frequent. “You could have a lower risk of flare-ups over the subsequent year,” Dr. Katz says.

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Have Lower Back Pain Avoid These Stretches And Exercises

For people experiencing lower back pain, relief is the first thing on their mind when they begin to exercise as part of their treatment plan. Unfortunately, many of the stretches and exercises for lower back pain can actually cause more harm than good when done improperly, and some should be avoided altogether. Here are four stretches for lower back pain that can be injurious if not done correctly, five exercises to avoid, and one stretch to avoid completely.

Exercise Mistakes That Cause Back Pain

5 Exercises to AVOID with Lower Back Pain &  Sciatica ...
exercise warmup, low back pain, pain triggers, prevent low back pain, stretching, working out

Lower back pain is an overview term used to describe the pain you feel in the lumbar, or the lower portion of your spine. This type of back pain affects about 80 percent of adults and is the number one cause of job-related disability. Further, research shows nearly 10 percent of the population worldwide deals with back pain.

When experiencing back pain, you may be wondering if lower back pain while exercising is a good combination. Having an exercise routine is usually good for back pain, as long as youre doing it correctly. Exercising with back pain is encouraged since it helps boost flexibility and strength, supports the back and promotes healing. However, you can make some common exercise mistakes that will make back pain worse.

To ensure you protect your back and benefit from your workout routine, always consult with your spine specialist first before you start or continue an exercise program when dealing with a back injury. They can go over the causes of lower back pain after exercise. In the meantime, here are eight exercise mistakes that cause back pain, along with tips to prevent lower back pain when exercising and what exercises to avoid with lower back pain.

Also Check: Why Is My Lower Back Pain Getting Worse

Exercises That May Be Causing Your Lower Back Pain

Sometimes, the best way to manage lower back pain is to know the risks of keeping active. Follow our guide and learn what activities and exercises to avoid, which stretches are safest, and tips that can make any workout safe for long-term back health.

Lower Back Pain Exercises To Avoid

When working out with a bad back, its just as important to know what not to do. Once youve been approved to exercise with back pain, its recommended to work with a personal trainer or physiotherapist to better understand what exercises affect you and how.

In general, here are some activities youll want to avoid with back pain:

  • Heavy weight lifting
  • High impact cardio like running or road cycling
  • Toe-touches and repeatedly bending over
  • Back extensions and hyperextensions

In addition to these guidelines, be sure to get to know your body and the types of exercises that cause you pain. This will help you learn your limits so you can develop the best workout plan for you while recovering from back pain.

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Lumbar Flexion Rotation Stretch

The flexion rotation stretch is started by lying on one side. Usually, your painful side is down on the table. Straighten your bottom leg, and tuck your top leg behind your bottom knee.

Reach your top hand to your top shoulder blade, and rotate your spine so your top shoulder moves backwards toward the floor. Hold this position for a second or two, and then return to the starting position. Repeat 10 repetitions, and note any changes in your symptoms.

Still dealing with symptoms? You may need to try a lumbar flexion progression. Check out the final step in this program to learn how to get started on that.

How Is Sciatica Treated

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

Sometimes, the sciatic pain can diminish over time, without any specific treatment options and measures. People with sciatica should stay active and continue with their daily activities.

Moreover, it is recommended to do a set of prescribed exercises as well. However, in case the pain is extreme, one can take paracetamol, anti-inflammatory drugs, tramadol, or other drugs that help relieve the pain.

Eventually, if the pain doesnt subside in a period between 6 to 8 weeks, one needs to contact their doctor, a neurologist, or orthopedic surgeon for detailed observation, diagnosis, and more focused treatment.

Read Also: What To Do With Lower Back Pain At Home

First Prevent Back Pain

The majority of lower back problems are mechanical, according to spine specialist Dr. Ted Dreisinger. This means that back pain is caused by lifestyle choices, including an overload of stress. You can prevent lower back problems by doing exercises that strengthen the core muscles around the lower trunk — Pilates focuses on strengthening this area of the body and NIAMS also recommends tai chi and yoga for exercises that improve balance and relieve stress. Consult your physician before starting an exercise regimen, especially if you have a chronic lower back condition this is classified as back pain lasting more than three months.

Tip #1 Stretch Often And Thoroughly

Think of stretching as a way to work up to more moderate forms of exercise. Stretching is low impact on the body, but highly beneficial in getting all those muscles and ligaments active so that blood can better circulate throughout the body. This applies not just to your lower back, but the rest of your body as well. Not working a joint such as the knees or the shoulders can lead to the joint getting weak and more prone to injury.

A good place to start with your stretching routine is by doing yoga poses that focus on your lower back and/or build up core strength. The following yoga poses are a great starting point for your routine:

  • Childs pose
  • Cat-cow stretch
  • Sphinx stretch

Always make sure to exercise with proper form and technique to prevent injury. Remember to ease into the stretch and avoid any quick or jerking motions with your body.

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Beginning With Heavy Weights

Many injuries happen at the gym because the person lifted weights that were too heavy. While you should challenge your bodys performance, youll want to take small steps by starting with lighter weights and adding more weight gradually as you start mastering the exercise, especially if youre a beginner.

Try: Some Pilates Moves

Exercises to Avoid if You Have Low Back Pain

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.

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Exercises To Avoid For Low Back Pain

Leg lifts/Double leg raises

  • Here the person lifts both legs together while lying on their back touching the ground.
  • Since it requires a strong core to carry out this exercise, which puts immense pressure on the back, it should be avoided.


  • A core strengthening exercise where most people use their hips to carry their body weight, which creates an increased tension on the spine and aggravates back pain.

Standing toe touches

  • Here the person stands straight and tries to touch their toe by bending forward.
  • Because it causes increased extension of the lower back, it increases the risk of stress to the disks and ligaments there. Hence, it should be avoided.

Abdominal crunches

  • Here the person lies on the ground on their back and bends their knee in the right angle position. Then the person tries to lift their torso and come closer to the knee as much as possible.
  • This again hyperextends the spine and ligaments involved, so it should be avoided.

Back squats

  • These are a modification of the traditional squats where the person puts an iron bar carrying heavy weights on their back and performs the squats.
  • People with back pain should completely avoid carrying weights, so this exercise should be avoided.

Superman back extensions

Exercises involving overhead or shoulder lifting of weights

Avoid skipping warm-ups

Medically Reviewed on 9/7/2021

The Best And Worst Exercises For Back Pain

One of the best treatments for lower back pain is exercise. The right type of lower back exercises can give you relief, when the wrong ones can do more harm than good. There are many safe physical activities to do that will relieve your lower back pain. In spite of the fact, there are still some exercises you should NOT do! Here, Dr. Matthew Hepler our spine surgeon in Palm Beach County advises which exercises to avoid if you have back pain, and which to do instead.

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Avoid This: Leg Lifts

Lying on your back while raising and lowering your straightened legs puts too much stress on your lower back. It also leaves you at risk for muscle strains. While this exercise may be recommended for core strength, you should choose something that is easier on your back.

Try This Instead: Reverse Curl-UpsReverse curl-ups target the same area as leg lifts, but arent as harsh on the back. To get in the starting position, lie on your back with your arms extended straight out to your sides, palms down and your knees raised, bent at a 90-degree angle with your feet off the floor. From there, slowly bring both knees into your chest, lifting your hips off the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Exercising With Back Pain

Best Exercise to Prevent Lower Back Pain

As with any injury, you need to be careful and know your limits.

If your back pain symptoms persist for a few weeks, are severe, and dont improve with rest, the pain spreads down your legs, the pain causes weakness or numbness in your legs, or is accompanied with unexplained weight loss, contact your doctor .

That being said, a certain type of exercise is tougher on your back health than others.

They can cause more strain, tightness, create discomfort and lead to even more pain.

Naturally, this means if you are experiencing acute low back pain, youll want to avoid those kinds of exercises.

Here are 7 exercises to avoid and an alternative to try instead!

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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.

Treatment For Lower Back Pain: Exercises

Exercising is good for the lower back pain, but not all types of exercise are beneficial. If you have any mild discomfort when you first start exercising, it should go away as your muscles get stronger. If your pain is more than mild in intensity and if it lasts longer than 10 or 15 minutes while you are exercising, stop what youre doing and contact your doctor.

Certain exercises can make pain worse. Toe touches, for example, when they are done while standing, increase the stress on the ligaments and spinal discs. Standing toe touches can also overstretch the hamstrings and the muscles of the lower back.

Some people think sit-ups strengthen the abdominal muscles or core, but people tend to use their hip muscles most often when performing sit-ups. Sit-ups can also put a great deal of pressure on the spinal discs. They should be avoided for this reason.

Some people suggest leg lifts as a good exercise to strengthen the abdominal muscles or core. Exercising is a good way to restore the strength in the lower back, but lifting both the legs up while lying flat on your back is not a good idea.

Doing leg lifts this way can make back pain much worse, especially if muscles are not strong because it is very stressful for the core. Try this exercise instead:

Good Exercises: Partial Crunches

Certain exercises can make back pain worse and need to be avoided by people who have acute pain in the low back. To strengthen your stomach and back muscles, try partial crunches.

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Not Stretching Adequately Or At All Before Working Out

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.

Tip #3 Practice Proper Posture

10 Exercises to Avoid With Sciatica (Bulging or Herniated ...

Bad posture is the slow and silent killer of the lower back. Sitting incorrectly may not yield injury for several months or even years. Eventually though, bad habits will catch up and begin to cause pain in the lower back or other parts of the body. A few tips when it comes to sitting with proper posture:

  • Dont slump or slouch in your seat
  • Avoid hunching over or leaning forward
  • Realign your posture throughout the day
  • Try to sit with your feet flat on the floor
  • Keep your forearms and thighs parallel with the floor
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed
  • Avoid crossing your ankles or knees
  • Try to avoid sitting for extensive periods of time

Not only do these tips work for sitting in your office chair, you can apply them to your seated workout routines. If you feel a strain in your back or neck during your workout, make the proper adjustments so as not to put undue stress on those areas.

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Exercises To Avoid For Lower Back Pain

6 inches: This is a core exercise that puts a ton of pressure on your lower back. There are tons of variations of this one, so be mindful when it sneaks into a fitness class. If you feel your lower back arch away from the floor, this is a huge sign that this exercise is straining your lower back and not doing much for your core. You can modify by lifting your legs closer to the ceiling or bending your knees.

Squats below 90 degrees: When you are doing squats for a strength exercise, its best to keep your knees at 90 degrees and up. Dropping below 90 creates spinal flexion which mimics a seated position. Its possible that your lower back is bothering you due to the way you are sitting, or how much you are sitting. Therefore, stay at 90 degrees or above to play it safe.

Crunches and sit-ups: These movements also create spinal flexion and can compress the spine. There are plenty of other awesome core exercises, so you should be fine ditching a basic crunch.

Forward fold: You dont have to totally avoid forward folding, but if you are doing yoga daily with forward folds, this could be irritating your back. Be sure to take some days off and add in spinal extension exercises to strengthen your back.

Are you in need of core strengthening and exercises to get out of lower back pain? Contact us. We provide one on one sessions in this area of specialty. If it is outside of our scope of practice, we will refer you out.


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