Sports and Exercises That Can Help Ease Back Pain

You so often hear people say: “There’s nothing worse than a bad back!” And it’s true, but it doesn’t mean you can’t play sport, or that you can’t exercise. It all depends on the kind of sport and the kind of exercise you do. Avoiding gymnastics, contact sports, and running are obvious, but there are some things you can do.

NOTE: It goes without saying that you should not follow the advice below without first consulting your GP, back specialist, osteopath, or other back health providers to find out if you can do the exercises and sports suggested here.

Sports to Avoid if You Suffer From Back Pain

First, let’s look at why you shouldn’t engage in the following sports if you have a ‘bad back’, i.e.upper, middle or lower back pain or back injuries:

  • Any Kind of Contact sports

This includes boxing, basketball, any kind of football, hockey, netball - all of these can jar your back and aggravate pain and injuries.

  • Jogging/Running

When the heel receives repeated impacts the shock moves through the knees, up the spine and aggravates your back.

  • Gymnastics

Gymnastics in particular is not a spine, or back-friendly sport. The movements can aggravate the spine and mack muscles and when you land on the floor it can cause too much strain on the spine.

Safe, Low-Impact Exercises and Sports For Your Back

The secret to managing back pain is to keep moving to encourage the release of your natural painkilling hormones. These low-impact exercises and sports can also help to strengthen your muscles so they support your spine, keep you flexible and help you manage your pain.

Low-Impact, Gentle Yoga

The combination of systematic breathing, proper body alignment, stretches, resistance and relaxation mean yoga can be a good way to exercise to help ease pain in your back. There are many different schools of yoga practice and some poses and styles are better for back pain than others. This means you don’t just go along to any yoga class, but ask the practitioner if they do a gentle low impact style for back pain sufferers.


A gentle walk at your own pace can do wonders for back pain, particularly if you are wearing proper shoes and you’re walking on the right surfaces. Low impact walks can help to make muscles stronger and enhance flexibility in your core, and legs. While walking strenuously can also keep your cardiovascular system healthy, it’s best to start very slow.

Your walking shoes should have enough support for your heel and arch, and they should have plenty of cushioning in the sole. Avoid walking for too long on pavements or concrete footpaths if it increases your pain. Try to walk on level dirt paths or purpose-built walking tracks.

However, don’t if you don’t walk in the property way you can aggravate your back pain, so it’s best to follow these methods:

  • Begin with a short, five to 10-minute walk daily and gradually work up at your own pace to a longer walk.

  • If you can’t manage a regular walk due to the pain, walking in the shallow end of a swimming pool is usually less painful.

  • Keep your spine naturally curved while walking to maintain correct posture.


A good way to keep moving without aggravating your back pain is to exercise in water. When swimming you use a lot of your core muscles, and the water is naturally and suitably resistant to muscle movement without jarring.

If you begin by simply walking slowly in the pool, then try a variety of swimming strokes that don’t cause any back pain, focusing on non-hip or back rotation movements. A gentle aqua aerobic class can help but you are always advised to go at your own pace and ease up if you feel any discomfort.

Tai Chi

This ancient Chinese tradition is also known as ‘meditation in motion’. It’s also part physical therapy and part martial art but is a low-impact gentle form of exercise you can do if you suffer back pain. Tai Chi reduces stress, is very gentle on joints and muscles. It promotes pain relief relaxation of the muscles and also teaches mindfulness.

When performed properly, Tai Chi can not only offer relief for the lower back but physical and emotional aids for people of any age. If you’re new to Tai Chi it’s a good idea to try it for your back pain.

While gentle sport and exercise are beneficial for chronic back pain, if you are suffering from severe or acute pain, always consult a doctor for advice, or pain medication if required, and if you wish, ask for a referral to an osteopath.

Author’s Bio

Alex Morrison has worked with a range of businesses giving him an in-depth understanding of many different industries including home improvement, financial support and health care.

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