Being active is good for everyone, even if you have back pain. Some gentle types of exercises and movement therapies may help you get stronger, which could help you feel better.
You may also need other medical treatment for your back pain; exercise alone may not be enough. But building your strength, especially in the muscles that support your back, is still a good idea.
Before you get started, you may want to talk with your doctor about what activities are right for you. If you work with a trainer or take a class, be sure to mention your back pain and limitations to your teacher.
Some of the most common approaches are:
- Alexander technique. This isn't a sweaty workout. Instead, it's an approach that helps people improve balance, posture, and movement. One study found that the Alexander technique reduced pain and disability in people with low back pain.
- Feldenkrais Method. Like the Alexander technique, the Feldenkrais Method is a series of gentle, guided movements that focus on balance and flexibility. A few small studies found that it may help with back pain.
- Pilates. Pilates is all about your core muscles, including your abs and back muscles. Some movements may be too intense for people with back pain. But exercises based on Pilates are a common form of rehab. Pilates actually started as a form of physical therapy. A review of studies found that Pilates-based exercise helped reduce low back pain.
- Stretching and strength training. This isn't about becoming as stretchy as an acrobat. It's about being flexible enough to move through your day without pain. One study found that typical stretching exercises can reduce pain and improve function in people with back pain. People in that study did 15 stretches that worked all muscle groups and four strength-training exercises.
- Tai Chi. This Chinese martial art involves slow, gentle stretches and movements. In one recent study, people who completed a 10-week course of tai chi cut their back pain by 25%.
- Yoga. Many studies have found that yoga can help with moderate back pain. It may be the stretches, more than the mental relaxation, that help most. One study found that yoga could reduce pain and depression and improve function in people with low back pain.
Whatever you choose to do, you should talk with your doctor or physical therapist before starting an exercise program for back pain.