4 Physical Activities for Back Pain


Physical activity plays an essential role in the treatment and prevention of back pain. Being physically active positively impacts the back and body in several ways:

  • Physical activity strengthens the muscles. Stronger muscles help support the back. Strong core muscles in the abdomen and back improve posture and support the spine, reducing pressure on the discs and joints.
  • Physical activity increases flexibility and reduces stiffness, which improves mobility.
  • Physical activity, especially strength training, strengthens the bones. Stronger bones, including those in the spine, are less prone to fracture.
  • Physical activity releases endorphins (the body’s “feel-good” chemicals), which can reduce the sensation of pain. Endorphins can also elevate mood and reduce depressive symptoms that may occur with chronic pain.

Several types of physical activity can help reduce or even prevent back pain. The four most commonly recommended activities include the following:

Low-impact aerobic activities

Aerobic activities, such as walking, elliptical training, or riding a bike, increase blood flow to the muscles and spine, which promotes healing. Individuals with back pain should avoid high-impact aerobic activities, such as running, and activities that require twisting of the spine, such as playing tennis.

Pool-based activities

Water provides resistance to strengthen the muscles while also providing support and buoyancy, minimizing the impact on the spine. Swimming, water walking, and water exercises are excellent activities for individuals with back pain.

Core-strengthening activities

The core consists of muscles in the abdomen, back, pelvic floor, and hip flexors, as well as the gluteal muscles. When these muscles are weak, the body relies on other structures, such as ligaments, bones and discs, for support, which can lead to pain. Strengthening the core can reduce pressure on the spine. Doing planks or side planks can help strengthen the core.

Yoga or Pilates

The poses and stretches used in yoga and Pilates improve flexibility and strengthen muscles, including the core. Since yoga and Pilates focus on both the mind and body, a relaxation component is also incorporated into these activities, which can help reduce tension and stress that may be associated with back pain.

Physical activity always should start with a warm-up and end with a cool-down to prevent injuries. A medical professional should always be consulted before beginning any new physical activity. Also, when increasing activity levels, individuals should take it slowly and be careful to avoid doing too much too soon.