Home > Low Back Pain: Exercises to Reduce Pain
that may help reduce or prevent low back pain include:
Some exercises can aggravate back pain. If you have low
back pain, avoid:
Do not exercise if you have low back
If you have low back pain, doing aerobic,
strengthening, and gentle stretching exercises may help you gain or maintain
good health, strength, and flexibility. Certain exercises may reduce your low
Continue to Why?
Exercise and staying active may relieve low back pain and can help speed
your recovery. Stretching
and strengthening your stomach, back, and leg muscles helps make them less
susceptible to injury that can cause back pain. Strong stomach, back, and leg
muscles also better support your spine, reducing pressure on your
spinal discs. This may help prevent disc
Aerobic exercises—such as walking, swimming, or walking in
waist-deep water—also help you maintain a healthy back. Aerobic exercise makes
your heart and other muscles use oxygen more efficiently. Muscles that
often receive oxygen-rich blood stay healthier.
Exercise and activity may help reduce the risk of
disability from back pain.
Exercises stretch and strengthen your back,
stomach, and legs. When these muscles are flexible and strong, they can help
reduce the risk of disability from back pain.
Continue to How?
people who have back pain naturally feel better by doing certain motions. Some
feel better sitting (their back and hips are flexed). Others feel better
standing (back and hips are extended). Exercise that moves you toward your more
comfortable position is usually more successful in treating your back
pain.1 For example, if you are more comfortable
sitting down, exercises that bend you forward—such as partial sit-ups
(curl-ups) and knee-to-chest exercises—may help you.
Talk to your
doctor before you start an exercise program, and only do exercises that do not increase your symptoms.
The most effective exercise programs for chronic low back pain are
designed specifically for you and are supervised.2 For
example, a physical therapist might teach you an exercise program that you can use at home. Then you would see the therapist every so often to check on your progress and
advance your program.
Ask your doctor or physical therapist whether there are
additional exercises that will work best for you.
Exercises to reduce low back pain take a long time and
are difficult to do.
Even 10 minutes of exercises each day may ease low back pain. The exercises listed above do not involve
complicated steps and can be done indoors without special equipment.
Continue to Where?
For more information about exercises to reduce low back
pain, talk to:
The following resources have more information about back pain:
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
provides information and education to raise the public's awareness of
musculoskeletal conditions, with an emphasis on preventive measures. The AAOS
website contains information on orthopedic conditions and treatments, injury
prevention, and wellness and exercise.
The American Academy of Physical Medicine and
Rehabilitation (AAPMR) is the medical society for the specialty of physical
medicine and rehabilitation. The Web site includes a directory of member
PM&R physicians (physiatrists) that can be searched by last name, location,
or telephone number.
The American Physical Therapy Association is a national
organization representing nearly 70,000 physical therapists, physical therapist
assistants, and students. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical
therapist education, practice, and research. The APTA also provides information
and education to the public about physical therapy and how it is used to treat
Return to topic:
Long A, et al. (2004). Does it matter which exercise?
Spine, 29(23): 2593–2602.
Hayden JA, et al. (2005). Systematic review:
Strategies for using exercise therapy to improve outcomes in chronic low back
pain. Annals of Internal Medicine, 142(9):
February 15, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Joan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
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