(Updated 2020)

People often ask me “if I have back pain, should I exercise?” I wish the answer was simple…

If you get my back pain newsletter, you have probably already ruled out any dangerous reasons for back pain that might be afflicting you, and have access to what I call “emergency movements”, which you can do even when you have acute pain.

Those soft and slow movements often help the muscles relax, without trying to stretch or strengthen them where they’re not prepared to do so.

Consider this: most short-term back pain is related to muscle spasms, which is what your body does in order to protect itself from further harm.

Any sudden or inappropriate movement while your muscles are contracted may worsen your situation. So, running is most probably out, and forget about lifting anything heavier than a plate of food. Even trying to stretch heavily contracted muscles is usually a bad idea, because most people try to do it much more deeply or aggressively than they are prepared for.

Which is why knowing how to move gradually, consciously and carefully, can do wonders for your back pain. Furthermore, any movement or position that doesn’t sit well with your body should be avoided, even if it seems mild. That’s very important!

Doctors used to recommend bedrest for back pain. Still some doctors (perhaps unaware of the evidence), still prescribe bedrest, along with muscle relaxants, pain and anti-inflammatory medicines.

Today, scientific research shows patients who remain active fare better compared to those in bedrest.

There are several reasons that might explain these scientific studies showing better results with physical activity rather than resting:

1) When you move your muscles stay fit. With no activity, the muscles that already are weak can atrophy even more, worsening the situation.

2) When you move, you bring more blood flow to the affected area. Blood flow helps in the healing process.

3) When you move, you improve your mood. Don’t underestimate it, how you feel is a very important factor that helps the body heal faster and feel less pain.

When not to move

Although today doctors ask you to move slowly and carefully, even after surgery, the movement is usually supervised by a physical therapist.

This means that if you have an injury and you do not know how to move, and the movement causes you pain, then instead of just relaxing, the best thing you can do is find a good physical therapist or Yoga therapist who can help you.

If you want to try my “emergency moves”, click here to get my emails, it is worth trying.

Whether you are working with a professional, or at home by yourself, there may be certain movements that cause moderate pain that are still worth doing.

So how to determine if you are doing harm?

If you notice that you have gotten worse with the exercises after practicing the routine twice, something is not working, and you must notify the professional to change the exercises, or your way of doing them.

Remember that physical activity should be appropriate for the specific condition.

And before I go: many of my Yoga Therapy clients come because they were told by a doctor that Yoga would help their back pain. Please consider Therapeutic Yoga directed by a trained Yoga Therapist is not the same as going to a class of “normal” Yoga. Yoga for back pain (of a therapeutic nature) involves practicing appropriate movements, in an intelligent order, and in a conscious way.

There is more information in my newsletter.

I hope this helps you,

For movement that brings a sense of freedom and joy,

Michael