Is this your idea of exercise for lower back pain?   If so – are you trying to avoid lower back pain or are you working on how to get more lower back pain?

Edinburgh Osteopaths are totally aware of how confusing this area seems to be for people – Which exercises should I do? When?  How often?  Should it hurt?  What if it does hurt?  Why not those other exercises?  And so the questions go on …

Here’s a quick resume of what we know about exercises for lower back pain.

Use it or Lose it!

All the evidence indicates the importance of maintaining activity levels when you have lower back pain.  If you lie around doing very little, it’s likely that your lower back will take significantly longer to improve.  It may be a little painful to get going, but most lower backs feel better for movement.

The single biggest predictor of future bouts of lower back pain is past episodes.  And there is no doubt that people who engage in higher levels of physical activity suffer less lower back pain and recover faster – so get out there and do something, even if it’s only walking round the block to start with.

Which exercises?

Oh dear, you’re not going to like this.  There’s little evidence that one type of exercise is better than another across the whole field of lower back pain – sorry all you Pilates enthusiasts.  However, the good news is that there is emerging evidence that some types of exercise are better from some types of back pain; but I’m afraid – without a thorough assessment, I can’t attempt to recommend particular routines to you .  Do come and see us if you’d like a “bespoke” approach to exercises (this is not my way of getting you to come to see me – it’s just the way it is!).  We will put up programmes of exercise on the website when we’re happy the research is clearer.

Don’t Abuse it!

For people with recent onset pain (less than 3 months), it’s best to avoid things that hurt – including exercises that hurt.  However, because of the complexities of chronic pain, if you have pain for more than 3 months it may be that you need to exercise despite a little pain

How Often?

On the whole most people do way too little exercise, so it’s unlikely you’ll over-do it.  (However, if you’re the competitive over-achiever type, you may be in danger of over-cooking it!).  Ideally you should be moving about frequently; the more you walk around, the fewer episodes of exercise you’re going to need.  However, if you spend hours at a time fairly immobile (e.g. desk work), you’ll need to do your exercises frequently during the day.  Take a look at our “exercises you can do at a desk” page .

In summary, “use it or lose it, but don’t abuse it” applies if you’ve had pain for less than 3 months.  If you’ve had pain for longer, you may need to accept a little pain in order to gain!