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Exercise: Too much, too little, just right

Too little

Lack of regular physical activity, often called a sedentary lifestyle, puts you at greater risk for getting back pain. This is because lack of exercise leads to:

  • Weak stomach and back muscles
  • Inflexible back muscles, which limit your ability to turn and bend down
  • Becoming overweight, which puts additional stress on your spine, especially increased abdominal size

Too much

High intensity exercise or doing movements improperly may also lead to back pain.

Many cyclists also have back pain. This may be avoided by proper adjustment of your bicycle seat and maintaining good flexibility of your back and hamstring muscles.

Using poor form or posture for any activity, including golfing or lifting weights, can cause serious problems with your back.

What should you do?

  • Vary your workout.
  • Work with a knowledgeable trainer until you have learned the proper movements and form for the activities you do.
  • Do low-impact aerobics like swimming, bicycling, and walking. These strengthen back and stomach muscles without over-straining the back. Swimming may be particularly good.
  • Include appropriate stretching and strengthening in your workout routine after you have recovered from the acute phase of your back pain. A physical therapist can be a big help in this area.
  • Consider yoga, Tai Chi, or Chi Kung. These are Indian and Chinese forms of exercise that combine low-impact movements with meditation and relaxation. Look in your area for a class. Your doctor or physical therapist may be able to help you find one.


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Review Date: 6/29/2011
Reviewed By: Andrew W. Piasecki, MD, Camden Bone and Joint, LLC, Orthopaedic Surgery/Sports Medicine, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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