When you suffer from back pain, it can be hard to get motivated to exercise. After all, exercising when you’re in pain can be difficult and, at times, increase pain temporarily. However, there are a few gentle workouts that you can do to help strengthen all areas of your body to relieve your back pain. As always, when beginning a new exercise program after an injury or while suffering from chronic pain, check first with your doctor and go slowly. The exercise should be challenging, but if you feel stabbing or sharp pain, or burning or tingling in your extremities, back off the exercise and try again later.

It may seem counterintuitive, but to strengthen the back, you need to strengthen the core, and crunches just won’t do it. The deep muscles in the front of the body are the muscles that lend support to your aching back, and these are the ones to focus on. There are three great workouts that will help you not only strengthen the deep muscles of the back but will also help lengthen and strengthen all areas of the back: yoga, Pilates, and swimming.


Yoga may seem intimidating to those who have not practiced it before, but it is surprisingly accessible for even the least flexible. Yoga focuses on moving at your own pace and not pushing past what is reasonable for you. Start with a hatha yoga class in which the use of props is encouraged. This type of yoga focuses on proper alignment of the body and balance in each pose. Through repetition and breath, the body becomes stronger and more flexible. Using props and modifying poses to the ability level of the practitioner helps to make beginners more comfortable.


Pilates is very similar to yoga in that it strives for strength balanced by flexibility. Exercises are generally completed on specific machines in a one-on-one situation, so if a private situation is preferred this is a great option. Developed in the early 20th century, Pilates also incorporates floor exercises that utilize a person’s body weight for resistance. The emphasis on structural integrity of the spine and musculoskeletal system makes this type of exercise excellent for rehabilitation of a back injury or management of chronic back pain.


Swimming is a full body exercise that can be as rigorous or as relaxed as needed. Every muscle of the body is worked in swimming, and the cardiovascular benefits are an added bonus. Even holding on to the edge of the pool and scissor kicking is a great place to start to engage the muscles of the core and the back. The breast stroke is another great, full-body exercise that can gently work the muscles of an injured or chronically pained back.

What workouts help you with back pain?

Image by Jim Bahn via Flickr 


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