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Exercises That May Be Causing Your Lower Back Pain

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT August 13, 2019 0 Comments

Sometimes, the best way to manage lower back pain is to know the risks of keeping active. Follow our guide and learn what activities and exercises to avoid, which stretches are safest, and tips that can make any workout safe for long-term back health.

6 Exercises & Activities You Should Avoid

There are many different factors that may be contributing to your lower back pain when seated. Keep reading to learn the most common ones and what changes you can make to reduce the discomfort.

1. Toe Touches

This common exercise may seem like a good way to strengthen lower back muscles, but may actually aggravate symptoms. Standing toe touches can put stress on the ligaments and vertebrae or even overstretch lower back muscles if you’re not careful.

2. Sit-Ups

Sit-ups are sometimes a good way to strengthen the abdominal core however they are too often performed incorrectly. Unless you have an experienced personal trainer, you run the risk of straining your hips and placing additional pressure on your spinal discs.

3. Leg Lifts

While this exercise can be helpful to those who already have strong core muscles, it can cause harm if you’re unprepared. Laying on your back and lifting both legs can be very demanding on your core and can worsen existing back pain.

4. Running and Jumping

The repetitive up-and-down motion of running and jumping can put stress on ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. If you’re looking for an intense cardio workout that’s easier on joints, biking could be a better option.

5. Golf and Tennis

The quick movements, turning, and bending that comes with most athletic activity can damage the lower back over time and should be avoided. If you still want to play your favorite sport, talk with your doctor first and take extra caution. Warm up properly and  try wearing a back brace for extra support.

6. Heavy Lifting

Whether at the gym or as part of your job, heaving lifting can stretch back muscles when bending over, and compress vertebrae while carrying. Carrying items overhead or on your shoulders can be especially damaging. Avoid living heavy objects, and make sure to bend at the knees rather than the back when lifting anything.

General Precautions to Follow

Be sure to keep all these precautions in mind when working out or enjoying your favorite activities. Always avoid all of the following:

  • Exercises that Put Pressure on the Spine

    Some of the most common exercises can actually put pressure on the spine and do lasting damage. Toe touches and situps are two examples, but any workout that causes sharp pain in the lower vertebrae should be stopped immediately.

  • High Impact-Activities that Put Stress on Joints

    Exercises like running and playing sports might not be the best choice for those with lower back pain. Finding lower-impact activities like an elliptical machine or core exercises are a safer alternative.

  • Quick Twisting Movements

    Many sports and strength training regimens require you to twist repeatedly. While this can be a good way to strengthen back muscles if done correctly, quick turning motions can harm the lower back. Be sure to take back motions slowly when possible.

  • Long Periods of Forward Flexion

    Bending, also called forward flexion, puts strain on the hamstrings and lower back and should always be taken with care. Avoid bending repeatedly, quickly, or haphazardly, and when lifting heavy objects bend at the knees rather than the waist.

Safe Stretches & Exercises

Luckily, there is a wide range of stretches and exercises that are safe to try with lower back pain, and can even help manage symptoms over the long term. Stick with exercises that incorporate slow and controlled motions that don’t involve bending at the waist or excessive twisting. Learn and try out the safe exercises we’ve put together in our guides below:

Tips for Avoiding Lower Back Pain During Your Workout

The key to a healthy back is getting-in a full fitness routine in a way that’s safe and gentle on the back. Incorporate these tips into your next workout.

Always Warm up Before Exercises

Stretching before exercising warms up the muscles, making them more pliable and less likely to strain or sprain. 10 to 15 minutes is all it takes, and can make a big difference to your back.

Make Sure Your Form is Correct

Any exercise can cause damage to your body if performed incorrectly. A personal trainer can ensure safe workouts, as can detailed workout guides. See our guide to lower back pain exercises for a step-by-step walkthrough to a variety of different exercises.

Focus on Engaging the Core

Working core muscles takes pressure off the lower vertebrae, offering extra support to the back. Over time, engaging your core will strengthen these muscles, helping to prevent future back problems.

Don’t Work Through the Pain

A gentle ache or burning sensation in your muscles is normal during exercise, but other kinds of pain are not a good sign during exercise. If you feel a sharp, stinging pain the lower back while working out, stop the exercise immediately.

Take Care of Fatigued Muscles After Your Workout

Make time for rest after your workout, accompanied by gentle stretches or massage. A heat pack or heated mat can soothe any lingering soreness, while foam rollers are a good way to realign back muscles after a tough trip to the gym.

Gradually Building Back Strength

No matter what kind of fitness routine you prefer, the key to long-term back health is taking your exercises slow and steady, with the info you need to perform them correctly. If you experience lasting pain as a result of your workout, talk to a doctor for advice on ways to protect yourself while staying active.

Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.

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