Safe Exercises for People with Back Pain


By Millie Shields

  • Water based exercise - see your local Aquatic Centre and smaller hydrotherapy options (you can always ask your physiotherapist for a program or pool based session)

  • Stationary bikes - these are great as they are non-impact. If seated, try to maintain a small arch in your spine or place a cushion or rolled up jumper or small towel behind your lower back

  • Cross-trainer: this is also a lovely non-impact option; be mindful not to commence vigorous twisting (arm handles) without warming up adequately. If you prefer, just hold the stationary handles instead

  • Pilates: this has been a consistent option with high efficacy in treating back pain. If concerned, you can locate a physiotherapist that instructs Clinical Pilates. This just means that the physiotherapist knows about your specific spinal concerns, and tailors the program to your needs. From there, it is best to progress from a 1:1 session in a pilates studio before progressing to a small group class (usually max. 3 people) when you and your instructor both feel you are ready.

  • Walking: good old walking! It is easy, free, has the added bonus of being in nature (if you can be outdoors) and is encourages a lovely tall position for the spine. Start with shorter walks, even several times per day (we call this pacing) and build to a longer walk. Also start on the flat, like on an oval, and progress to more challenging terrains with steeper sections or more difficult surfaces (like sand).

  • Gym: a traditional or holistic gym is a great place to get started. If you have any niggles at all, it is very advisable that you book at least an initial session with a personal trainer. You may even like to continue 1:1 sessions initially before progressing to more independence. You can also talk to your physiotherapist about gym based protocols and even practice your routine with them.

Marco van der Heide