exercises to avoid with back pain

Some Exercises Are Good For Back Pain, While Others Should Be Avoided At All Costs

When your back hurts, depending on the severity of the problem, sometimes the last thing you feel like doing is exercising. Yet, most health care professionals, including chiropractors and physical therapists, recommend moving as much as you can to help speed up your recovery. It becomes a fine balancing act of resting your injury and moving around enough so you don’t seize up.

There are many exercises recommended for people dealing with back pain, including swimming, yoga, and walking, but have you ever stopped to wonder what exercises should be avoided?

Here’s our list of 7 exercises you shouldn’t do if you have back pain:

1. Sit-ups

Full sit-ups are not really recommended much anymore for anyone, especially for someone who has a bad back. They just put too much pressure on your spine. The repetitive full movements are not worth risking making your back pain worse.

Alternative: As an alternative, do partial sit-ups instead. Partial sit-ups (crunches) are only 5 or 6 inches off the ground, or 20 degrees instead of the 90 degrees of a full sit-up.

2. Double Leg Raises

Double leg raises are another abdominal exercise to avoid when your back hurts. During a double-leg raise, you’re on your back raising both legs so that your toes are pointed towards the ceiling, and then lowering them back down so they are an inch or two away from touching the floor. This move puts unnecessary demand on your lower back.

Alternative: Modify this move by doing single-leg raises instead.  There are specialized lumbar fulcrums that you can use to support your lower back while doing this exercise.

3. Standing Toe Touches

During a standing toe touch stretch, you are bending over far enough to touch your toes, or the floor, and holding the position while feeling the stretch in your hamstrings. However, the stretch might be felt too much in your back – so much so that all you will feel is pain rather than the stretch.

Alternative: To get a hamstring stretch, lie on your back with one knee bent. Wrap a stretching band or a towel around your opposite foot and pull the leg close to your body.

4. Superman Back Extensions

Avoid superman back extensions when your back hurts! A superman back extension is where you are on your stomach and simultaneously lift your legs and outstretched arms off the ground as high as possible. The angle is awkward and not comfortable, making this move hard on your lower back joints.

Alternative: Bird dogs are a favourite exercise move of many chiropractors because they are effective without overloading your spine. On your hands and knees, lift and extend one leg behind you to hip level without tilting your pelvis. Raise and extend the opposite arm to shoulder level. Hold this position slightly before returning to starting position. Do 8 to 12 reps on each side.

5. Deadlifts

While we can’t picture many people with pain in their backsides actually wanting to perform deadlifts, we wanted to add this item to our list all the same. Deadlifts involve squatting over a loaded barbell, grasping it with both hands, and lifting it up off the ground using your legs. It’s a tricky move to master, and improper form can lead to serious back pain due to your lower back rounding excessively and compressing your vertebral discs.

Alternative: When leg day comes, use a leg press machine to support your back and prevent your body from tiring out and slipping into poor form.  Remember, when performing exercises whether you use a machine or not, make sure to maintain good posture habits.

6. Burpees

Remember burpees from your school days? Burpees, while effective calorie burners, involve repeatedly dropping down to do a push up and then popping back up to do a jump. Skip these explosive, high-impact movements if you have back issues.

Alternative: Increase the intensity while doing cardiovascular exercises for 10-60 seconds during a cardio workout. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that doesn’t involve jumping is a good stand-in for high impact moves like burpees.

7. Squat Jumps

Similar to burpees, squat jumps are explosive, high-impact moves that also involve jumping repeatedly. During a squat jump, you perform a squat, explode into a jump, and then land back in a squat position. Squat jumps are effective exercises, but can be tough on your joints and back if you’re just starting an exercise routine.

Alternative: Squats without the jump are a suitable replacement here (minus any added weight), but having the support of the leg press machine is even better.

In general

When we’re talking about exercises to avoid when your back hurts, it’s worth pointing out that if you are in a lot of pain, attempting even the alternative exercises on this list might not be a good idea. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself beyond your limits, as this could worsen the inflammation causing your pain.

Likewise, if you do ANY exercise, make sure you’re doing each move properly and use good form. This involves keeping a good posture, engaging your core muscles constantly, and carrying out each move methodically. Being in back pain might not be the right time to try new exercises without someone who can show you the moves or the machines.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about managing your back pain and finding an exercise routine that fits your needs, Mind Body Spine’s mobility and strength training classes in Victoria can help. Best taken near the beginning of your treatment at the clinic, this class focuses on exercises that are designed to improve mobility and function, reduce symptoms, and speed up the healing time of your injuries.

Finally, if your back hurts, come see Dr. Stephanie Louie at Mind Body Spine, a top-rated chiropractic clinic in Victoria, BC. Dr. Louie can treat your pain before it gets any worse, help determine what is causing the pain, and recommend the best exercises and stretches for your abilities. Call Mind Body Spine at 250-885-2320 to book an appointment today.