Effective Exercises for Common Types of Back Pain

Medically reviewed by TJ Snediker, DPT, TPI
2020-06-11

There are specific exercises you can perform to help reduce your back pain. The research literature suggests that exercise should be a part of an effective treatment plan for back pain. Whether you have a chronic condition or suffer from the occasional backache, there is an exercise routine that can help.

There are many different movements and routines you can perform that may help to lessen your pain. Active stretching helps with mobility, or moving the back. 

Exercises performed with physical therapists (therapeutic exercises) help improve many things, especially after suffering an injury. 

Low-impact exercises, such as walking or light yoga, can help those with back pain become more active. 

Strengthening exercises can help people who are already physically fit to experience less pain.

However, listen to your body. If you have any pain while exercising, do not continue. The goal is to make your pain better, not worse!

Keep reading to find out more about common back pain causes and the exercises that can help. 

Chronic Back Pain

According to the National Institute of Neurological Orders and Stroke (NIH), chronic back pain is defined as pain which lasts for 12 weeks or longer. Those who have acute back pain (pain lasting four weeks or less) are more prone to chronic back pain. 

Common symptoms of back pain include:

  1. Recurring pain, lasting for weeks or months.

  2. Stiffness. 

  3. Poor range of motion.

  4. Pain walking, bending, or sitting in certain positions.

If you have chronic back pain, try the single knee to chest exercise.

The single knee to chest exercise stretches your glute muscles and your lower back. This can alleviate pain and stiffness you might be experiencing.

How to perform the single knee to chest:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees and hips bent.

  2. With both hands, reach in front of one of your  knees and pull your knee towards your chest.

  3. Hold this for 20-30 seconds, and repeat on the other side.

See the Goodpath exercise routine for chronic back pain.

Herniated Disc

The bones of the spine are cushioned by discs. A herniated disc occurs when one of these discs moves out of place. This puts pressure on the surrounding nerves, leading to back pain. 

Some people with a herniated disc have few, if any, symptoms. Because the majority of cases involving a herniated disc occurs in the low back, you might feel pain in that region. Other signs of a slipped disc in the low back may include symptoms in the legs such as:

  • Radiating pain.

  • Numbness or tingling from the affected nerves. 

If you have a herniated disc, try the prone on elbows exercise. 

How it helps: The prone on elbows exercise deloads the spine, allowing the discs to return to their normal alignment.  

How to perform the prone on elbows exercise:

  1. Lie on your stomach.

  2. Place your hands flat on the floor near your shoulders.

  3. Push up onto your forearms and elbows.

  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds.

Repeat five to 10 times.

See the Goodpath exercise routine for a herniated disc

Back Strain 

A back strain can be caused by many different causes , ranging from poor posture, heavy lifting, or a new activity.

Common symptoms of a back strain include:

  1. Pain that worsens with movement.

  2. Decreased range of motion.

  3. Pop or tear sensation at the moment of injury. 

If you have a back strain, try the child’s pose.

After a back strain, light yoga poses such as the child’s pose can be effective at improving levels of pain and activity limitations. However, it is important to note that child’s pose may be difficult for some. 

How to perform the child’s pose: 

  1. Kneel, with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart.

  2. Reach forward and extend your arms past your torso, shoulder-width apart.

  3. Rest your head and chest in between your arms, touching your head to the floor if possible.

  4. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Perform two sets.

See the Goodpath exercise routine for back strains.

How Goodpath Can Help

When performed properly, these exercises  help stretch, maintain flexibility, and relieve discomfort. 

If you’re still unsure which exercise is right for you...we can help you out with that!

Goodpath's algorithm combines expertise from doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, and nutritionists to create a custom back pain program just for you. 

Our integrative plans cover it all - from therapy to herbal supplements to instructional exercise videos. 

Complete our short assessment so we can get started on yours today.