5 Exercises To Avoid If You Have Back Pain

At some point in our adult lives, nearly everyone experiences back pain. Why we feel that pain and how our symptoms manifest may be different, but the end result of stiffness, discomfort, and limited mobility is often very similar.

In the past, we’ve talked about how one of the biggest “myths” of back pain is that rest is the best form of medicine. It usually isn’t! In reality, a healthy combination of exercising and stretching is a far better remedy, as long as you aren’t doing anything to further agitate inflamed muscles or joints.

Back pain should never get in between you and a quality session at the gym. If you’re currently experiencing back pain, here are five exercises you should avoid while working out and five safe alternatives to try out instead!

Jogging or Running

This is true of any high-impact aerobic exercise, but running or jogging can significantly worsen low back pain.

The discs in our spines act as a form of shock absorption, and the repetitive impact of running can trigger or worsen the symptoms of your back pain. The impact of running or jogging can be even worse for people suffering from sciatica or a herniated disc.

Do this instead: Consider walking or swimming in place of jogging or running if you suffer from low back pain. Not only will these low-impact exercises avoid further injury to your back, but they may also alleviate lingering pressure.


Crunches are one of the most common and fundamental exercises in any workout routine… and they could be triggering your back pain.

Situps and crunches may be great for strengthening your abdominal and core muscles, but they put a tremendous amount of pressure on your back which can cause the discs in your spine to bulge and the nerves to become inflamed.

While we might recommend certain lumbar-pelvic inflections to our patients in order to help strengthen your back muscles, the injured spine could experience further discomfort and trauma by attempting these moves unaided.

Do this instead: Planks or assisted planks (with your knees planted on the ground) may sound more daunting, but they offer the same level of core strengthening without putting unnecessary weight on your back.

Inclined Treadmill

Walking on an inclined treadmill is notoriously great for working out your glutes, and is often incorporated into popular HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercise regimens. What the inclined treadmill isn’t so great for is back pain.

By adding extra stress to the hamstrings, the pressure from working out on an incline can radiate upwards toward the low back and pelvic region inflaming sensitive back pain. Even when the treadmill is cushioned, the effect can be uncomfortable for your lower back, knees, and ankles.

This doesn’t mean you should avoid the inclined treadmill forever – it’s one of Dr. Seals’ favorite cardio recommendations in place of traditional running or jogging – but an injured spine may want to steer clear as you navigate through treatment towards recovery.

Do this instead: If you have access to a stair climber in your gym, you may be able to create the same effect without adding extra stress on your back. Instead of angling you back or spine to accommodate the incline, using the stair climber allows you to keep you back straight and lift at the legs instead.

Leg Raises

Like crunches, leg raises are one of the quintessential core and abdominal exercises you’re most likely to see suggested by workout guides and trainers. By laying with your back flat on the floor and raising both legs simultaneously, you torque the back in a unique way that applies pressure to often underutilized muscles.

Similar stretches can actually be very beneficial to relieving lower back pain, but raising both legs together can trigger an excessive amount of pressure on the spine. When you’re already in pain, or if you’re often prone to experiencing low back pain, leg raises can push your body over the edge.

Do this instead: Reverse curls, where you lie on your back with your arms extended out with both knees raised at a 90-degree angle provide a similar impact on the core without straining the back. From the floor, bring both knees together, as far back into your chest as you can, and then lower them together at the same 90-degree angle.

Toe Touches

You may think reaching down to touch your toes is a simple and safe enough stretch before working out, but it can be very painful for some people. Too much rounding of the spine puts excessive pressure on the lumbar curvature of the spine, and doing it continually can lead to disc degeneration.

We often recommend toe touches under certain circumstances (when coupled with a certain amount of heat in your morning shower, for example) but it’s important to work up to a full on inversion with toe touches, and listen to your body if you’re feeling resistance as you try to bend over.

Do this instead: Create the same effect by stretching out your hamstrings with the support of a chair. As you lean into the stretch, keep your back straight to avoid putting pressure on the joints in your lower back.

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Therapeutic Exercise At Grovetown Chiropractic

At Grovetown Chiropractic, we offer more than spinal adjustments and the traditional “back cracking” often associated with chiropractors! Our therapeutic exercises give you the tools you need to take safe and effective exercises home with you too.

Practice your stretching routines in our office under the guidance of Dr. Seals and you’ll be able to continue treatment even after you leave your appointment. Schedule today by calling or texting 706-400-4333, or book your appointment online by visiting our homepage!