Back Pain

Do you suffer from back pain?

Exercise is an excellent way of preventing back pain and reducing any back pain you may already have. If you can it is important to keep moving and be as active as you can.
You should always consult your GP/specialist before starting any exercise programme.
Adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week. For more detailed information on this, click here.

When putting together a weekly exercise plan you should start low and build up gradually. Ask yourself the following:

  • What is your start point?
  • What do you enjoy? 
  • When is your availability?
  • What level can you realistically cope with?
  • What are your goals?

Once you have decided on the above you can follow the guidelines below, with your eventual goal being:
F – FREQUENCY = Working towards building activity into your daily routine on 5 days of the week.
I – INTENSITY= Working at a moderate level where you feel mildly breathless, warm but comfortable.
T – TIME = One way of achieving your 150 minutes is to work towards performing your chosen activity for a total of 30 minutes. This can be broken down and accumulated. You may begin with as little as 3-5 minutes each session and build gradually.
T – TYPE = any activity that fits well into your daily life.

Other exercise limitations to consider are as follows:

  • Avoid heavy lifting. 
  • Avoid jarring and jerking movements,
  • Avoid exercise during episodes of acute pain,
  • Avoid repetitive bending movements,
  • Avoid double leg raises, straight leg sit-ups and other exercises that apply a heavy load to the spine. 

Exercise recommendations
Concentrate on correct posture – gentle Pilates and yoga-based programmes focus on posture, mobility, flexibility and breathing (always check the instructor is properly qualified). You will find a Pilates workout video collection and exercise videos for bad backs within the members sceryion of this website.

Other exercises that may be suitable for you are listed below , however you should check them through with your GP or back specialist, as he/she will be able to assess how severe your condition is before trying them.

Gentle back strengthening exercises such as back extensions:
How to perform back extensions

  • Lie flat on the floor on your tummy, with your forehead facing downwards and your legs extended, feet together, heels relaxed out.
  • Place your arms in a diamond position, fingertips touching, just in front of your forehead. Shoulders should be relaxed.
  • Scoop your tummy in and lift head and shoulders off the floor, sliding shoulder blades down your back as you do it. Keep your ribs in contact with the floor. As you lift your tummy muscles should be working, your arms stay on the floor but do not bear any weight. Your lower back muscles should be doing the work and you should lift until you are fully extended, but don't go too far. Pause for a couple of seconds and slowly lower.
  • Remember to breathe! Slowly breathe out as you lift and breathe in as you lower yourself to the floor.

Start off doing 2 or 3 lifts, rest and then do another set. Increase the number of repetitions as you feel you are able. You can do this exercise 2-3 times a week, doing 2 to 3 sets of the number of repetitions you are comfortable with.
Exercise in water can be effective, as it provides support for the body weight and the water provides a massaging effect.
Swimming is often good for people with bad backs, but it is really important to make sure that your technique is correct. If you do feel discomfort during or after swimming, stop and possibly consult your GP.
Walking also strengthens the muscles that support your back without putting a strain on it, so gentle walking regularly may help you.
It is also important to vary your activities to avoid repetitive strain and overuse.
The NHS website has excellent advice for people with back pain, click here for more details