Top 5 Exercises You Should Avoid with Lower Back Pain

Top 5 Exercises You Should Avoid with Lower Back Pain

Fitness girl running on treadmill. Woman with muscular legs in gym

While running/jogging is considered the gold standard for aerobic exercise, the high impact nature can actually do more harm to individuals with existing back pain.

Are you one of the millions with chronic lower back pain? Tight muscles, bulged disc, or herniated disc in the lower lumbar vertebrae can be debilitating for many individuals who love to exercise. While some exercises are excellent for conditioning and strengthening muscles for relieving back pain, many exercises that you may be doing regularly can actually cause more aggravation to your already existing symptom. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: STOP doing the exercises that induces lower back pain, otherwise it can further lead to wear-and-tear and adhesions within the affected area. Rest when needed, and condition your core muscles to relieve pressure off from your surrounding back muscles. Alternative and safe rehabilitative therapies, such as acupuncture and physical therapy are must for realigning kinetic functions of the body’s normal mechanism to reduce inflammation, increase range of motion, and reduce pain symptoms. Replacing the body’s bad habits into good habit, such as proper stretching and corrective postural therapies are always needed in chronic pain syndromes.

Ultimately, you are in control of your own body; which means that while all above options are viable solutions for fixing the root problem, you should take charge in retraining the body’s normal functions with healthy exercises for full recovery. More often than not, people make mistakes thinking that high intensity, core-building workouts that target the back and abdominal muscles are all beneficial, but it is important to know that the exercises you may be doing weekly at the gym may actually hurt you even more. With that said, these are some of the most common exercises you should be avoiding for lower back pain.

Common Exercises to Avoid with Lower Back Pain

1) Sit-Ups – while building the core muscles (“abs”) are an important process in taking pressure off of your back muscles, full sit-ups at 90 degree angle can be a dangerous precursor for aggravating your disc problem. Every time you flex/bend forward your torso, it puts additional pressure onto your vertebral facets and the underlying disc that protects it, resulting in higher chance of “popping” that disc further into nerve compression. Instead, try crunches as it isolates the core muscles better, and you are less prone to use swinging motions of the back.

2) Jogging – FACT: high impact exercises are NOT recommended generally for individuals with bulged disc. Every impact on the ground (esp. uneven outdoor pavement) causes additional weight and stress on the vertebral disc affected (as well as the knees), resulting in higher chance of disc pressing into the nerve that runs down on the spinal column of the back.

3) Cycling or mountain climbing – without back support, prolonged hyperextension of the neck, and hunching over motion can cause additional stress to the surrounding muscles of the lower back and hip. Studies show that cyclists are more prone to hip flexor dysfunctions, weak transverse abdominis and imbalance between overdeveloped quadracep vs underdeveloped hamstring, which all can lead to lower back pain symptoms.

4) Deadlifts – Deadlifts are one of the most touted exercise for developing overall muscles, particularly the lower back, glutes, and quadriceps. However, because of the dynamic nature of the exercise, deadlift requires strong core and lower back strength distribution, which is already a problem for many with lower back pain. In addition, having improper form (which we see in many weight lifters today) during the exercise puts excessive stress on the lower vertebral disc, often resulting in discogenic injuries such as bulged or herniated disc.

5) Every exercise that requires bending of the trunk anteriorly – standing toe stretches, bend-over rows, and just about any anterior flexion of the trunk especially when the knees are extended (straight) puts additional weight on the lower back. Anterior flexion by nature, opens the disc away from the core towards the spinal column, so if the individual already has bulged disc or degenerative spinal arthritis, the pressure may often hit the nerves running down the spinal column, producing sharp shooting pain due to nerve impingement. Sciatica is a common symptom for many, since it is the primary nerve crossing the lower vertebral columns. Avoid these exercises, and the next time you need to pick up something off from the floor, bend the knee instead of bending from the trunk – this will allow your legs to carry away your weight as you crouch down.


We will be posting another article shortly with recommendation of exercises you should be doing to relieve your lower back pain. Meanwhile, try these exercises at home/gym that are guaranteed to be safe for your back pain:

1) crunches
2) recumbent bicycle
3) elliptical
4) swimming
5) power walking
6) plank
7) bridge
8) walking lunges
9) back extension
10) yoga

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