Low back pain and exercise: key facts you need to know.

Low back pain can be painful and debilitating but as you may have read in my previous post, 7 facts about back pain, back pain can get better. One key factor towards recovery is exercise. Indeed, there is strong and growing evidence about the importance and the role played by exercise not only in the recovery of low back pain but also in the prevention of it.

I always get lots of questions related to exercise from patients suffering from low back pain, whether it is acute or chronic low back pain. Patients often ask if they should exercise or not, when can they exercise or which type of exercise should they go for or avoid. So I have compiled below 5 key facts when it comes to low back pain and exercise.


Keep mobile - This is definitely THE key message I share with my patients. Although it may be sometimes counter-intuitive to be wanting to move while we experience low back pain, it is essential to try to keep mobile as much as possible or feasible. Remember, our body is designed to move and there is strong evidence that laying down or sitting for long periods is not the solution for low back pain. You can rest by laying down or sitting but try to change position often.

Pain does not mean damage - This is a common misconception shared by a lot of patients. Patients often say to me “ I have got a lot of pain in my low back therefore it must be serious”. Patients often think “I am in a lot of pain, it must be bad so I should not move” or “each time I move it is painful and I must be making it worse”. Research has shown that the correlation between the level of pain experienced and the level of structural damage is not direct. Here is an example I often use with my patients. Think about a paper cut on the tip of your finger. There is little structural damage but it can be really painful.

Regular physical activity is essential - The World Health Organisation (WHO) has made clear recommendations about physical activity for the best health benefits. Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Regular physical activity is a key aspect for low back pain sufferers and I always encourage patients to think about incorporating some physical activity into their daily routine.

The best type of exercise is the one you enjoy - It is always a question I ask to my patients who are not necessarily active: have you thought about any type of exercise you would like to start? Research has shown there is not a specific type of exercise better than another for low back pain so it is important that you pick one you are likely to enjoy and commit to. If you are not sure about which activity, you can always ask your therapist for suggestions. Walking, running, yoga, Pilates, gym classes, swimming or cycling are common activities to consider. But remember, you should enjoy it!

Move with confidence & relax during exercise - It is something easy to do when you are pain free but more difficult to achieve when your low back is painful. However, when you do your exercises, it is essential to try to move in a controlled and relaxed way to what I call the barrier point - some discomfort is acceptable throughout the movement but don’t reach the “ouch” point. Remember pain does not mean damage.

If you have been suffering from low back pain and have any question or would like to book a consultation, you can get in touch through the website or call on 07523 861 252.

Note: these facts and references are related to non specific mechanical low back pain only.


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