Redefine HealthCare 732.906.9600

The Best and Worst Exercises for Chronic Back Pain

The Best and Worst Exercises for Chronic Back Pain

You don’t want to avoid exercising if you are suffering from chronic back pain. Most doctors, physical therapists, or trainers will recommend some form of exercise to help speed your recovery. What is essential, however, is to avoid any activities that exacerbate the pain. When your doctor recommends exercise to improve your back pain, avoid routines that could hinder your recovery, and choose alternatives that will benefit you.

The Best Exercises to Manage Chronic Back Pain


If you are in severe pain, one of the best exercises is to walk. Walking boosts circulation and sends a fresh supply of oxygenated blood to where it hurts. The activity will reduce inflammation and decrease your discomfort. It’s essential to strengthen key muscles surrounding the back to help support it and decrease the likelihood of further pain. However, specific exercises detailed below can cause more harm, and you should avoid them.


Swimming is perhaps one of the best choices for people looking for exercise as a relief from chronic back pain. Pools are often easy to access in most communities, and the barrier to entry is low. Meanwhile, the water delivers built-in resistance to challenge the body without being too taxing. What is essential to understand about using swimming to combat back pain? Here are a few pointers to begin the journey.

Start By Consulting Your Physician Before Swimming.

Before beginning any new regimen of exercise, it’s important to consult with your doctor. Your physician understands better than anyone both the needs and the limitations of your body. Seeking clearance and guidance before you start a new exercise effort can help to ensure you are healthy enough for the level of physical activity you intend to pursue. You may also be able to acquire a recommendation for a physical therapist who can aid you in developing a swimming plan to target your particular type of pain. With medical clearance, it’s time to get in the water.

Practice Simple Swimming Strokes Or Tasks.

The goal here is not to become an Olympic-class swimmer, but to develop the skills necessary for strengthening your body and reducing pain. There’s no reason to plan to swim twenty laps a day. Instead, find the stroke that is both comfortable and effective for you. For beginners, this often means breaststroke. However, the backstroke is also effective at pain management. If you aren’t sure about your swimming form, ask for help from a more experienced swimmer or an instructor. Strength training in the water, which may include merely walking from one side of the pool to the other, can also yield results and allow you to build towards more strengthening exercises.

Develop A Dependable Swimming Routine.

Based on research conducted in Japan, swimming yields more robust results regarding pain management when individuals got in the pool two or more times every week. However, any effort put forth in the pool can help deliver relief from the pain your experience. While you may not notice results right away, such as within the first days or even the first week or two, your efforts build up over time. Use that as a motivating factor to keep getting in the water. Make it fun, too! There are plenty of aquatic exercise opportunities that can work effectively in this context. Listen to what your body and your doctor tell you, and you can unlock some of the benefits of swimming.

Four Exercises That Can Inflame Lower Back Pain

  • A common issue amongst most people with lower back pain is a weak core. For this reason, sit-ups place an enormous strain on your spine when you move from lying flat to sitting upright. Because your front muscles don’t power you as you sit up, the low back must take on the brunt of the work, increasing your pain. A way to get your upper abs worked without putting a strain on the lower back is to practice half-crunches at a 20-degree angle. Your shoulders will only come up five to six inches off the floor, eliminating the strain on your back.
  • Squatting down to raise a barbell with your lower back rounded will compress your vertebral discs. Rather than risk further injury, try doing leg presses on a machine. The leg presses will strengthen your hamstring and glutes, just like deadlifts will, but the leg presses eliminate the pressure on your back.
  • While burpees activate the majority of muscles in your upper and lower body, they are a terrible idea if you have ever had a history of back pain. Dropping down into a pushup and then bouncing back up into a jump involves explosive, high-impact movements that will aggravate back pain. Instead, take a few minutes to accomplish some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) by only getting your heart rate up by walking briskly or stepping up the pace on an elliptical. Neither of these choices will increase back pain. Your cardiovascular health will improve without hurting your back.
  • Tight hamstrings are one of the leading causes of back pain. While it is a good idea to stretch those hamstrings, toe-touches can put pressure on your spine, especially if you sit for much of the day. A safer alternative is to lay on your back with your legs extended. Bring one knee to the chest and grasp it with both hands for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat it with the other leg. Since you are flat on the ground, your spine stays in neutral alignment.
Page Updated on Mar 9, 2022 by Dr. Freeman (Pain Management Specialist) of Redefine Healthcare


Recent Posts

Thumbnail img Meet Redefine Healthcare’s Newest Physical Therapist, Dr. Brittany Angrosina! September 26, 2022 by Redefine Healthcare Thumbnail img Meet Redefine Healthcare’s Newest Physician Assistant, Lyle Stark! August 17, 2022 by Redefine Healthcare Thumbnail img Online Scheduling Now Available at Redefine Healthcare June 30, 2022 by Redefine Healthcare Thumbnail img Treatment for Scoliosis at Redefine Healthcare June 27, 2022 by Redefine Healthcare Thumbnail img Board-Certified Spine Surgeons Join Redefine Healthcare March 16, 2022 by Redefine Healthcare

Top Tags

Dr. Eric D. Freeman

Dr. Eric D. Freeman is a top-rated, best-in-class pain management doctor. He is a nationally recognized pain relief specialist and is among the top pain care doctors in New Jersey and the country. He is an award-winning expert and contributor to prominent media outlets.

Dr. Eric D. Freeman has been recognized for his thoughtful, thorough, modern approach to treating chronic pain. He has been named a “top pain management doctor in New Jersey” and one of “America’s Top Physicians” for advanced sports injury treatments.

Our Locations
732.906.9600 732.906.9300


2500 Morris Ave.,
Suite 220
Union, NJ 07083


10 Parsonage Road
Suite 208
Edison, NJ 08837


922 Main Street
Suite 201
Paterson, NJ 07503

West Caldwell

185 Fairfield Ave.,
Suite 2A
West Caldwell, NJ 07006


11 West 25th Street
Bayonne, NJ 07002


901 West Main Street
Freehold, NJ 07728


1255 Broad St #201B
Bloomfield, NJ 07003

West Orange

445 Pleasant Valley Way
West Orange, NJ 07052

Contact Us We are here to assist you