The Best Exercise For Back Pain

July 7, 2011
“I can’t exercise and lose weight because of my back pain!” 
“I could exercise if my back pain would go away!”
Do you have these same excuses?  Back pain is very common and millions of people suffer with horrible back pain that limits their ability to exercise.  Lack of exercise will obviously lead to obesity and a multitude of illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, depression and many more.  Many people wonder what are the best exercises to help with back pain, or what exercises they can do safely while suffering with back pain.  After years of researching and treating thousands of patients with acute and chronic back pain I have compiled a list of the best exercises for back pain.
It is very important to stretch before and after any exercise regimen and for a back pain sufferer it is more important than the person without back pain. 
During an acute episode of back pain your muscles can become very tight and spastic.  It is very important to stretch these muscles prior to an exercise regimen so they will relax and subsequently reduce back pain.  Further, it is important to utilize modalities like heat in this phase, because heat will reduce spasm and allow a better stretch and subsequently a better effort with your exercise regimen.
If you are a chronic back pain sufferer, then your muscles can also suffer with spasms but to a lesser extent than the person with an acute episode.  Typically with chronic back pain the muscles are weak, which lead to stress on the tendons and joints, which will lead to more back pain.  Therefore, the importance of stretching is very crucial to all patients with back pain.  The pictures below reveal the
best stretches for patients with back pain.
Upper Back Stretch
Stand with your feet at a natural stance.  Put your hands in front of you and clasp the fingers.  Then push your hands forward and you will be able to feel a stretch in your upper back across the shoulders.  Hold for 10 seconds and repeat.

Lower Back Stretch
Lie on your back and clasp your hands around your legs like the picture shows.  Then pull your knees closer to your chest to feel the stretch in your low back.  Hold for 10 seconds and repeat.


Back Hyperextension Stretch
Lie flat on the floor with your elbows close to your body.  Push your torso up and rest on your elbows.  Hold for 10 seconds and repeat.
Rotational Stretch
Lie flat on the floor with your knees bent and your arms extended to the side.  Rotate your knees to one side while maintaining your back flat on the mat.  You will feel the stretch in your back.  Hold the rotation to one side for 10 seconds and then rotate to the other side and hold for 10 seconds.
Cat Stretch
Get down on your hands and knees with your back straight.  Then curve your back upwards by pushing your spine up.  Feel the stretch and hold for 10 seconds and then lower your back down to a straight position and repeat.
After the proper stretching routine the muscles will be ready to participate in your exercise regimen.  The following regimen is what I consider to be the best exercise for back pain.
First and foremost start out with some light cardiovascular exercise for 5-10 minutes for a warm up.  I recommend walking (treadmill or outside) or an elliptical machine.  If you are walking either on a treadmill or outside try to do this on the most level surface as possible.  If there is an excessive incline or decline then that can cause extra stress on the back.  If you are doing an elliptical, then warm up on one of the lowest settings on the machine because you are looking for a warm up and not your total workout.
Once you have accomplished your warm up, then it is time for your exercises.  I recommend using lighter weights first.  Therefore, buy some lighter weight dumbbells or if you are at a gym then get the lighter dumbbells.   The following exercise routine will be a full body circuit routine.
Wall slide squats. 
Stand up against a wall with your dumbbells in hand and put your feet out in front of the wall about 12-16 inches or more depending on your height.  Slide down the wall till your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle at the knee and then slide back up the wall.  Perform about 10-12 reps of this exercise 3-4 times.
You can do this with or without dumbbells.  With hands on hips, or holding dumbbells at your side, take a large step forward and your body will naturally go into a squat if the step (or lunge) is large enough.  So make sure you take the biggest step you are capable of taking without causing an increase in back pain.  Take two steps forward so you have a lunge with the right leg and then the left leg.  Turn 180-degrees and take two steps back to your starting position.  Repeat the sequence about 5 times for a total of 20 lunges.  Do this 3 times total.
Swiss Ball Abdominal Exercises
Lye down on the floor and rest your calves on a Swiss ball/exercise ball with your hands on your hips.  Lift one leg off of the ball while keeping the other on the ball and this will contract your abdominals.  Then lower the leg back to the ball and raise the opposite leg.  Perform about 15-20 reps 3-4 times.
Once done with these exercises, then go back to your cardiovascular exercise as above for a 5-10 minute cool down and then repeat your stretches.
This is the best exercise routine for back pain and should be done at least 3 days per week.  Once your back pain improves and you are able to perform these stretches and exercises easily, then you can increase your weights and branch out to more exercises, as your pain will allow.   Lastly, try swimming once you improve, as swimming is a great exercise for the back and can burn a lot of calories.
For what it’s worth,
Dr. B
Check Out The Following Links For Great Exercise Routines:


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  5. John Casto on September 26, 2011 at 11:37 pm


    I actually don’t have a stretching guide, so I’ll be sure to share this with my clients, thanks!

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