Whether you're experiencing backache for the first time or it's a chronic or reoccurring condition, exercise is key for back pain relief. But when your back hurts, it's hard to get motivated and for many people, it was exercise that caused their backache in the first place. What are the do's and don'ts for back pain exercises? We have ten tips that break them down, without breaking your back.


1. Establish a total-body fitness plan that includes aerobic, strength, and flexibility exercises. The best way to prevent and relieve back pain is through balanced physical fitness. Physical therapists and fitness experts advise cross training to strengthen muscles equally.

2. See a doctor if your backache is caused by injury or accident. He might prescribe rest (along with heat, ice and anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing medication) immediately after the injury but prescribe careful back pain exercises guided by a physical therapist during your recovery period.

3. Walk regularly. Walking is the most natural fitness program for keeping your back in tip-top shape.  Even if your back is tender, walking is a gentle yet effective way to strengthen your legs, core muscles, hip flexors, gluteal muscles and the muscles that keep your spine in line.  Movement lubricates the joints and improves circulation, which are essential for preventing and recovering from back pain.

4. Stretch. Tight muscles are more prone to injury than flexible ones. Start your exercise routine with gentle walking or aerobics and stretch after your muscles are warmed up.

5. Practice yoga. Who says back pain exercises have to be just for your back or boring? This ancient practice incorporates movement with meditation, breathing and deep relaxation for an all-over strengthening, flexibility and balance workout. Start with a teacher to learn proper technique then practice on your own regularly. 


1. Don't perform these exercises, which are notorious for causing back injury:

  • Straight-leg sit-ups - these "old school" sit-ups put too much pressure on the low back. Instead, bend your knees, keep your back flat on the floor and do a crunch or roll-up.
  • Straight double-leg lifts (lifting both legs while lying flat on your back)
  • Touching your toes while standing with straight legs. Instead, bend your knees.

2. Lift weights that are too heavy for you. Consult with a fitness trainer or physical therapist after your back injury and before returning to weight lifting. You may need adjustments in your technique or weight-load.

3. Do the Same Old Thing. If you're a one-sport kind of person, you may be putting your back at risk by making some muscles too strong and neglecting others. Over-dominant muscles can pull your back out of alignment or put too much stress on ligaments. Instead, rotate other activities into your routine, like bicycling or swimming. 

4. Neglect your core. Your abdominal muscles wrap around your sides and connect with your back muscles. They're crucial for properly supporting your spine.  Be careful though, many old-fashioned abdominal exercises are dangerous for your back. Try exercising with a fitness ball to support your back and neck. 

5. Give up on exercise. It's easy to get off track after an injury but the sooner you start exercising again, the sooner you'll recover and the fewer backaches you'll have in your future.