The Ultimate Guide to Exercise Progressions for Back Pain Relief

The Ultimate Guide to Exercise Progressions for Back Pain Relief


Exercise can help with back pain. It can make muscles stronger, improve joint flexibility and reduce pain. This guide explains how to do the right exercises. It offers modifications for different abilities and how to move forward.

People with existing back injuries should get help from a healthcare provider before starting. Always talk to a doctor before beginning any exercise.

Causes of Back Pain

Back pain can have many sources – poor posture, weak core muscles and a sudden increase in exercise intensity. It’s crucial to find out what’s causing the pain to pick the best treatment plan.

In this article, we’ll explore the causes of back pain and how we can use exercise progressions for easing it.

Poor Posture

Poor posture is often blamed for back pain and many other health issues. This includes shoulders that are rounded, a head that’s pushed down instead of sitting straight, and a swayback. It creates an asymmetry in the body, which leads to muscular imbalances. If left untreated, these can cause pain.

Poor posture becomes habitual and tensions build in the muscles. This causes them to become weak and tight, which restricts mobility even more. With extra movement around the joint, it creates wear and tear which causes pain.

Stress causes us to tense our muscles unconsciously to protect from danger. Lack of activity also leads to tight muscles, which contributes to a slouched upper back, tight hip flexors, and glutes.

Daily stretches aid tight postural muscles and blood flow throughout the body. Mentally relax into each stretch for maximum benefit. Depending on fitness level, core stabilization or mobility drills may be needed to ensure proper muscle activation around the spine, hips, and shoulder girdle. This will help correct any muscular imbalances from prolonged poor posture.

Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalances occur when there’s uneven strength between the left and right side of the body, or upper and lower areas. Usually, weaker glutes on one side come to mind. A variety of causes can lead to muscle imbalances such as:

  • Injury
  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • Bad posture
  • Improper training
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Poor limb and spine alignment
  • Incorrect muscular recruitment patterns
  • Diminished core stability and balance/coordination

To address back pain relief, restorative exercises that activate weak muscles should be done. This includes improving hip and shoulder mobility and core stability/activation. Myofascial release techniques like foam rolling and mobilization exercises can boost joint flexibility and neural pathways to improve muscle activation.

Strength training is advised to restore optimal postural control during spinal movement patterns to stop overloading damaged tissue or structures, which could make pain worse or decrease performance.

Weak Core Muscles

Weak core muscles are a typical cause of back pain. This is especially true for those with chronic conditions such as low back pain, degenerative disc disease, and spondylolisthesis. Core muscles are the deep abdominal, hip, and back muscles that support the spine and body parts that move. When these muscles are weak or imbalanced, you may suffer from more pain or instability in your spine and hips. Weak core muscles can lead to postural issues, increasing the risk of injury.

To improve core strength, stability, and mobility, target strength gains in all major muscle groups. Exercises might include: plank holds, bridges with hip extensions, side planks with leg lifts, bird dogs/four-point planks, rotational exercises like wood chops, and Pallof presses. It is also advised to do dynamic movements with handheld weights.

Resting posture can improve lower back pain. A neutrally aligned trunk should be maintained throughout the reps of any exercise. This can be done by tucking the chin slightly, retracting shoulder blades, sending hips and ribs down toward gravity, pushing out the abdominals, and engaging the TVA muscle. Keep your breath steady. These tips can help build stronger core muscles, which may reduce back pain in the long term.

Exercise Progressions for Back Pain Relief

Exercise progressions are vital for back pain control. Exercises can help make the muscles that support the back stronger, improve posture, reduce inflammation and enhance flexibility. Exercise progressions go from basic to complex to help build up strength and stability in the back.

This guide will explain the various types of exercise progressions for back pain relief and how to move forward correctly:

Stretching Exercises

Stretching is essential to relieve back pain. It can maintain mobility, reduce tightness, and improve posture and movement. Static stretches, which involve holding a pose for a few seconds, are the most helpful. Start slowly, and add tougher stretches once you have control and flexibility.

Here are some key back pain stretches:

  • Cat/Cow Stretch – Get on your hands and knees with your back in a neutral position. Arch your spine up (cat) then down (cow). Do this 8-10 times.
  • Bridge Pose – Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Push your heels to lift your hips until you form a straight line from knees to shoulders. Squeeze your glutes to bridge up as high as you can. Hold for 20-30 seconds then lower down.

Break any bad habits of tensioning up, so you don’t make existing dysfunction worse or cause new problems.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises are one of the most popular and effective ways to manage and reduce chronic back pain. They focus on strengthening specific muscles around the lumbar region. Take it slow and start with simple movements before progressing.

Beginner-friendly exercises include:

  • Abdominal Bracing – Draw your belly button in towards your lower back while keeping the abdominals tight.
  • Bridges – Lie face up on a mat with knees bent, feet flat on the ground and arms at your sides. Push through your heels to lift your hips off the floor until you form a straight line from knees to shoulders. Then, slowly lower back down.
  • Cat/Cow Stretch – On hands & knees make sure your palms are flat directly under your shoulders & hips above ankles. Round out your spine like a cat would do, then release your head/neck towards the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Next, arch your upper & middle back like a cow would do & hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

More advanced exercises include:

  • Deadlifts – Engage abdominal bracing while standing tall & holding light pair of dumbbells at either side of legs. Press through your heels & keep your legs slightly bent until the weights reach just below knee level. Then, bring them back up & return all the weight to your heels. Do 8–12 reps each taking 8–10 seconds.
  • Side Planks – Lie on one side with forearm directly under shoulder. Tighten your abs & rotate your hips & ribs. Keep arms straight & press away from the earth into a modified handstand position. Hold total time in shortened plank position for 10–20 seconds or 8–12 reps per side. Increase intensity over time as strength increases.

Balance Exercises

Balancing and stabilizing your core is key for back pain relief. Balance exercises involve challenging the body and its control while moving actively. These exercises focus on posture, alignment, and movement control; targeting the deep muscles of the body.

Examples include:

  • One leg squats
  • Bridges
  • Planks
  • Single leg Romanian deadlifts

Start by doing the movement with both sides at once. Then slowly decrease to one side until you build up stamina. Maintaining posture while doing dynamic full body movements needs lots of coordination, which helps those with back pain due to instability.

Progress slowly and don’t go too hard too fast. Fatigue and more symptoms can come from that.


Exercise is a must for treating back pain. Take it slow: start with beginner exercises. Focus on form over intensity. Increase difficulty gradually. If you feel discomfort or pain during exercise, adjust or avoid it.

Talk to your healthcare team: physical therapist or strength coach. They’ll help you make an exercise plan that’s tailored to your goals. You’ll reach them faster and safer.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are exercise progressions for back pain relief?

Exercise progressions refer to a series of exercises with increasing difficulty levels that target a specific muscle group or area. In the case of back pain relief, exercise progressions are tailored to strengthen the muscles in the back, increase flexibility and mobility, and help alleviate pain.

2. Can I do exercise progressions if I have chronic back pain?

Yes, exercise progressions can be done with chronic back pain. However, it is recommended to work closely with a physical therapist or trained medical professional to avoid further injury or worsening of your condition.

3. How often should I do exercise progressions if I have back pain?

It is recommended to do exercise progressions for back pain relief two to three times a week with rest days in between. However, the frequency and intensity of exercises may vary based on your specific condition and individual needs.

4. What types of exercise progressions work best for back pain relief?

Some popular exercise progressions for back pain relief include core strengthening exercises like planks and bridges, flexibility exercises like stretches and yoga, and aerobic exercises like brisk walking or swimming. However, the best type of exercise progression for you will depend on the cause and severity of your back pain.

5. Can exercise progressions help prevent future back pain?

Yes, exercise progressions can help prevent future back pain by strengthening the muscles of the back and improving overall posture and spinal alignment. Consistent exercise can also help improve flexibility and mobility in the back, reducing the risk of future injury.

6. Can I combine exercise progressions with other forms of back pain relief such as medication?

Yes, exercise progressions can be combined with other forms of back pain relief such as medication or physical therapy. However, it is important to consult with a medical professional before starting any new exercise routine or medication regimen.

the back recovery program by alex larsson
Jane Smith is a natural health enthusiast on a mission to uncover effective methods for achieving pain-free living. Through her personal journey with chronic back pain, she has become well-versed in holistic approaches such as yoga, Pilates, and essential oils.

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