The Best Exercises You Can Do If You Have Back Problems

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Back problems are a pain. Both literally and figuratively. For those with back pain, there’s a fine line between exercising the back muscles and pulling them. Use these exercises to strengthen back muscles and minimize pain.



Swimming is very easy on the joints. |

 A pilates move to mimic swimming in a pool strengthens back muscles, according to Prevention. As the name suggests, when performing this exercise you’ll look like a swimmer out of water. Maintaining a long spine and contracting the abs is important to support the back throughout the exercise. Also, focus on the length of arms and legs and not the height.

Hint: This old form of exercise still works wonders.


Young woman doing yoga

Yoga will give your body a good stretch. |

Yoga can be very beneficial to those suffering from back pain. Yoga is helpful to those with other ailments too. “The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome,” Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor, told the American Osteopathic Association. “Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia,” Nevins’ added.

Hint: Stretch, stretch, and stretch some more.

Child’s pose stretch

man in a blue shirt and black shorts practicing child's pose

Child’s pose is a great place to start if you are new to yoga. |

One yoga pose in particular, child’s pose, is useful to those with back pain. The pose, a variation of lying down on one’s stomach, gently stretches the muscles in the lower back, Prevention says. For those who are new to yoga, child’s pose is a good place to start. The move is simple and provides a good stretch.

Hint: Mimic animals’ movements with this stretch. 

Cat/cow pose

Man performing cat pose

This move is great for your back. |

Another yoga pose for back pain sufferers is the cat/cow pose. On all fours, the back is convex and concave to mimic a cat and a cow. While the move may feel silly, back muscles are being stretched to release tension. The pose moves the back muscles in two different direction, according to Prevention. That way, back muscles are targeted from all angles.

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Hint: Decompress your spine with this move.


Senior couple performing yoga exercise

The yoga twist is perfect for your spine. |

Twists are one of the best yoga moves to promote a strong and flexible spine, Yoga Journal says. For those with back pain and for those who spend their days sitting down, twists can be very beneficial. “Twisting has the potential to help decompress the discs and elongate the spine, opening the spaces between the vertebrae, activating the muscles around the discs, and increasing blood flow to the spinal area to deliver pain-fighting, healing, anti-inflammatory oxygen.”

Hint: Reduce stress with this no-equipment technique.

Practice breathing

Man practicing meditation on the beach

Taking slow, deep breaths can help calm your nerves. |

Stress may be a contributing factor to back pain. “When I’m going through a busy time at work or a stressful time with family, my back hurts,” Jane Jones told Health. For that reason, breathing exercises to reduce stress may, in turn, help reduce muscle tension. Spend a few minutes taking slow, deep breaths to calm nerves.

Hint: Don’t like yoga? Try this instead.


Two women doing Pilates

Pilates are a great low-impact exercise. |

Pilates “consists of low-impact flexibility and muscular strength and endurance movements,” the Mayo Clinicsays. While the name may sound intimidating, pilates is helpful to those with back pain. The only equipment needed to do pilates is a mat. Beginners, start slow and work up to more difficult moves.

Hint: Pilates is great for those with back pain.

Benefits of pilates

Man performing pilates

Pilates is known to help those suffering from back pain. |

Pilates is great for back pain because the exercises used in pilates target functionality and strength. The benefits of pilates include “improved core strength and stability, improved posture and balance, improved flexibility, and prevention and treatment of back pain,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Having core strength helps reduce back pain by reducing strain on the lower pack. A stronger core will ensure the back muscles don’t have to work as hard. Flexibility will help with daily activities making it harder for one to pull their back out.

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Hint: Do small moves to lengthen spine.

Pelvic tilt to pelvic curl

male yoga practitioner in bridge pose

The pelvic tilt will help strengthen your core. |

A pelvic tilt to a pelvic curl is similar to a bridge. As with all exercises, form is crucial. Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat to the floor, lift your pelvis then bring it back down to the floor, Very Well says. This sequence “teaches us to use our abdominal muscles in a way that supports and lengthens the lower back.”

Hint: Be a swan.

Swan prep

Man performing swan prep

This move is simple, but effective. |

This move “strengthens the back extensors, the muscles the [that] hold us upright,” according to Very Well. “These muscles are often weak and over-stretched in people who have back pain.” With arms tucked close to the body, lying face down on the mat, life your chest up, lengthening your spine. While the move may not be big movement, swan prep is effective.


Hint: Perform a plank.

Plank benefits for back

young woman in sportswear doing plank

Planks can help alleviate back pain. |

Working the body’s core has tons of benefits. “Planks train the muscles of your abdomen to activate so they support your posture and share in the burden of holding you upright; your back muscles no longer have to do all the work,” LiveStrong says. Not only do planks help in everyday activities, they can alleviate back pain. Put the painkillers aside and perform a plank.

Hint: Work your entire body.

Forearm plank

Young man doing planks

The forearm plank is a little more difficult. |

Dubbed the “ultimate core move” by Prevention, the forearm plank works the core, the midsection, arms, butt, legs…pretty much the entire body. Form is key to performing a plank and reaping the benefits. Keep the body in a straight line and in no time your body will be shaking, working to maintain its position. To track your progress, write down how long you hold a plank and review your stats weekly.

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Hint: Do 30 seconds of this move to start.

Side plank

Fit woman doing side plank yoga pose

A side plank can help relieve your back pain in no time. |

Planks are God’s gift to people with low back pain, Dr. Jordan Metzl writes. In his NBC News article, Metzl recommends performing three minutes of plank exercises a day. He suggests doing one minute in a traditional plank and one minute on each side. If a side plank with both feet stacked on top of one another is too difficult, lower one leg to support yourself.

Hint: Hit the pavement.


Carefree mature woman walking barefoot at beach

A nice walk can help ease your mind. |

Go for a leisurely walk in your neighborhood or at a local park. If the weather conditions won’t allow for outdoor activity, walk indoors. As mentioned earlier, moving more is good. Not moving is bad. “People with chronic lower back pain who do not regularly engage in aerobic exercise are more likely to be limited in their functionality,” Andrew Moeller of Spine-Health writes. Not only does walking help you stay functional but the movement releases endorphins.

Hint: The general impact of exercise on your back.

Overall? Move more

Man walking on pavement

Get moving! |

Bed rest for back pain isn’t the best course of action, according to Harvard Medical School. “To get the most from staying in bed, limit the time you are lying down to a few hours at a stretch, and for no longer than a day or two.” With more knowledge about back pain, doctors don’t suggest strict bed rest for back pain. Instead, they suggest the opposite. “We know now that staying in strict bed rest can actually exacerbate pain, so we essentially tell patients to take it easy and move as much as tolerated,” Jeffrey Goldstein, MD, Director of the Spine Service at the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases, told Health.

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