10 facts about exercise and back pain

1 Exercise is helpful for back pain

Staying as active as possible and returning to all usual activities gradually is very important in aiding recovery. You can start by doing some gentle activity and then increase your levels when you feel confident to do so.

2 Rest is not helpful but getting back moving and to normal activities is

Scientific studies now indicate that prolonged rest and avoidance of activity for people with low back pain actually leads to higher levels of pain, greater disability, poorer recovery and longer absence from work.

3 Exercise can prevent recurrence of back pain

Exercise can significantly prevent the recurrence of an episode of low back pain. Exercise also helps reduce low back pain and disability levels, when people stick with it in the long-term.

4 Moving with confidence and without fear is important for back pain

Many people start moving slowly and minding themselves. Moving slowly and tensing actually puts more strain on your muscles

5 Exercising in a relaxed manner is important

Doing the exercises in a relaxed manner (e.g. moving normally, not guarding and not breath-holding) and progressing gradually is also important

6 The best type of exercise is the one you enjoy

People should do an exercise that they enjoy, that is affordable and easy to access (e.g. not too far or difficult to fit into your daily routine). For example, walking, running, cycling, swimming, yoga and pilates, all have similar effects for back pain.

7 Feeling sore after exercise does not indicate damage to your body

Underused muscles get sore more quickly than healthy muscles. Feeling stiff and sore after exercise does not indicate harm or damage to your body, it simply reflects your body not being used to the activity.

8 Exercising regularly is a must

The amount of exercise you do is probably more important than the type of exercise. The greatest gains result when an inactive person starts doing any exercise. Getting more than 150 minutes a week has the greatest health benefits.

9 Running on the road and swimming the breaststroke are not bad for back pain

Scientific research does not show that any of these activities are bad for your back or ‘wear out’ your joints. The amount of exercise you do is more important than the type of exercise. Any amount you can manage will result in benefit, but more than 30 minutes per day would be ideal.

10 No drug or tablet delivers the diverse range of benefits as exercise

This is a fact that is often overlooked as part of the management of low back pain. Be aware too that all low back pain is not the same. So if you tried one form of exercise that has not helped you, talk to a healthcare professional who can set a specific programme.


This post has been translated to Spanish, Italian, Catalan and Finnish here.

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