Lower Back Pain: The Exercises to Avoid

Lower back pain is a common health problem with approximately 25 percent of Americans experiencing at least one day of lower back pain in any three-month period, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Exercise can both prevent and alleviate lower-back problems. However, there are exercises chronic lower-back pain sufferers should avoid.

A woman is standing up from her desk with back pain. (Image: Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images)

First, Prevent Back Pain

The majority of lower back problems are mechanical, according to spine specialist Dr. Ted Dreisinger. This means that back pain is caused by lifestyle choices, including an overload of stress. You can prevent lower back problems by doing exercises that strengthen the core muscles around the lower trunk -- Pilates focuses on strengthening this area of the body and NIAMS also recommends tai chi and yoga for exercises that improve balance and relieve stress. Consult your physician before starting an exercise regimen, especially if you have a chronic lower back condition; this is classified as back pain lasting more than three months.

Opposite Syndromes

One of the more common types of lower back pain is "extension syndrome." Sitting at your desk for hours, hunched over your computer without ever leaning back against your chair's backrest is just one cause of this. Typically, you feel an acute pain when you stand up. Avoid exercises where you have to lie on your back with your legs extended straight out. Instead, always bend your legs at the knees if you're doing any exercise where you need to lie on your back. The opposite is true for those people whose lower back pain is caused by lounging against the chair backrest all day. This causes flexion syndrome, where the hamstrings are tightened and the back muscles lengthened and weakened. You need to avoid bending your knees when lying on your back and will find relief in exercises where you straighten your legs.

Excessive Rotation

Rotation syndrome is caused by a posture where you twist your spine in one direction. A typical cause is repeatedly rotating your trunk to look at a computer monitor or to get files from a cabinet that are to one side of you in your workspace. Repetitive turning in one direction can cause pain when you need to turn in the other direction, or in both directions sequentially. People with this syndrome should avoid tennis and golf.

Avoid High Impact But Don't Stop Moving

Anyone with lower back pain should approach high impact exercise and sports with caution. These include step aerobics, running and basketball. Also, if you do strength training, avoid lifting weights above your head or putting weight on your shoulders, such as you might experience doing weighted squats; those moves put pressure on the spinal discs. If you do experience a flare-up of lower back pain, avoid any exercise that increases your pain, but also avoid being completely immobile as that also makes the condition worse, according to Dr. Grant Cooper at Spine Health. You may wish to consult a physiotherapist to work out the best routine for your back.

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