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How To Prevent Low Back Pain When Exercising

Surprising Ways to Stay Fit Without Hurting Your Back: Essential Tips for Pain-Free Workouts

Ever finished a workout feeling exhilarated, only to wake up the next day with a nagging pain in your lower back? You're not alone.

Many fitness enthusiasts and beginners alike experience this all-too-common issue, which can quickly derail your fitness goals and dampen your enthusiasm. But what if we told you there are some super simple but effective ways to protect your back and keep you on track?

In this blog, we'll uncover the secrets to preventing low back pain while exercising, ensuring you can enjoy your workouts without the worry of discomfort. Ready to transform your fitness routine into a pain-free experience? Let's dive in!

How to prevent low back pain when exercising.

How To Prevent Low Back Pain When Exercising

The advice is unanimous. When you have low back pain, healthcare professionals around the world say that the best treatment is exercise. Aerobic exercise is a great way to increase the blood flow and deliver much-needed nutrients to the soft tissues in your back.

Exercise also helps to improve your circulation which can also lead to less stiffness and, ultimately, less low back pain. When we take the time to exercise and we increase our core muscle strength we can help our bodies better support our spine, reducing the impact of every day activities on our spines and helping improve spine health.

There’s only one problem.

Sometimes it can be scary to exercise when you have low back pain.

Many people who struggle with chronic low back pain are scared of exercising in case it makes the pain worse.

Fear Of Exercising With Low Back Pain

Many people who struggle with chronic low back pain are scared of exercising in case it makes the pain worse. Lower back pain can be excruciating and debilitating and it is no surprise that people don’t want to do anything that might make it hurt even more.

Fear of injury is a valid concern. So much so that researchers have investigated the psychology that lies behind it. Researchers have also tried to find ways to address these concerns.

If we are going to ultimately improve people's quality of life and help people get back to participating in their normal activities, fear is definitely something that needs to be addressed.

Fear of falling refers to the fear of losing your balance, falling, and causing further injury to the spine.

3 Major Concerns For Fear Avoidance When Exercising

In terms of exercising, when it comes to fear threats, researchers have identified 3 major issues:

1. Fear-avoidance beliefs (For patients with low back pain, fear-avoidance beliefs (FABs) represent cognitions/thoughts and emotions that form the foundations for the concerns and fears regarding the potential for physical activities to produce pain and do more harm to the spine).

2. Fear of falling (this refers to the fear of losing your balance, falling, and causing further injury to the spine).

3. Kinesiophobia (defined as “an excessive, irrational, and debilitating fear of physical movement and activity resulting from a feeling of vulnerability due to painful injury or reinjury”).

It can be hard to stay active when you are already in pain but as long as your doctor has ruled out any rare or serious causes of your lower back pain then there isn’t really any reason to be scared of moving.

Kinesiophobia refers to the fear of pain with regards to movement or re-injury.

Kinesiophobia And Its Effect On Low Back Pain

Kinesiophobia (fear of pain to movement or re-injury) combined with emotions and physical concerns plays a key role in the assessment and management of low back pain. Studies have found that kinesiophobia is a significant predictor of pain intensity and functional performance in individuals struggling with low back pain.

Kinesiophobia also impacts something called proprioception. Proprioception (also known as kinesthesia) refers to your body's ability to sense location, movement, and action. It's how our bodies read all the information from our surroundings and our movements so we don't have to spend time thinking next steps. Kinesiophobia can actually cause changes in our somatosensory system and increase our sensitivity to pain.

All of this might sound a bit technical and complicated but essentially what it means is that fear of pain and re-injury, known as kinesiophobia, plays a major role in understanding and treating low back pain. This fear can predict how intense the pain will be and how well someone can move despite it.

The fear also affects proprioception, which is our body's natural ability to sense movement and position without thinking about it. Kinesiophobia can make our nervous system more sensitive, leading to increased pain.

Engaging in regular physical exercise has been shown to strengthen muscles and reduce pain.

The Importance Of Exercising For Back Pain

While exercising might sound like a scary option, not exercising is actually often worse. When you don’t exercise it can cause your core muscles to weaken and that can actually make your pain worse in the long term. Engaging in regular physical exercise has been shown to strengthen muscles and reduce pain and it can also help keep you mobile and able to engage in your regular daily activities.

When it comes to exercising there are numerous studies to support its effectiveness in managing lower back pain. One meta study looked at whether or not strengthening exercises, endurance training and aerobic exercise could help prevent non-specific low back pain. They looked at 21 different studies which included more than 30,000 participants.

The researchers found that without exercise around 50% of people had low back pain again within one year.

The different studies looked at all different types of exercises such as core stabilizing exercises and stretching exercises. The length of the exercises varied from just 5 minutes a day to one or two 60 minute sessions per week.

What the researchers found was that without exercise around 50% of people had low back pain would have it again within the space of just one year compared to only about 30% of people who did take part in exercise.

Taking a multidisciplinary approach to treatment can help reduce the fear of falling and the kinesiophobia.

Overcoming Your Fear Of Exercise

When it comes to overcoming the fear that sometimes accompanies low back pain there are certain treatments that have been found to be really beneficial. Manual therapy and electrotherapy have been found to make patients feel more comfortable with their exercise programs. Taking a multidisciplinary approach to treatment (looking at things more than just pain symptoms) can help reduce the fear of falling and kinesiophobia.

Lower impact exercises are the most effective and the most gentle for low back pain.

The Safest Exercises For Low Back Pain Sufferers

While there is no perfect exercise for those struggling with low back pain, there are some exercises that are lower impact and that might feel less intimidating than others. Some exercises that have been proven to help with back pain and that are also relatively low impact include:

  • Pilates

  • Tai Chi

  • Yoga

  • Walking

  • Swimming

Generally speaking, the lower the impact of the exercise the more gentle it will be on your back. And gentle exercise is much better than jarring exercises - or no exercise at all!

No matter what type of exercise you pick, finding something that you enjoy is key.

Fear Avoidance Behaviors And Digital Physical Therapy Programs

It is well known that Fear-avoidance beliefs (FAB) are linked to worse recovery from conditions like low back pain and often cause less commitment to exercise treatments for muscle and joint pain.

While it's known that FAB negatively affects these treatments, researchers are starting to explore just how much they actually impact people with upper body muscle and joint pain, especially when using exercise-based digital care programs (DCP) like virtual physical therapy programs.

A recent study, published in 2023 found "very high adherence, completion rates and patient satisfaction" for people who participated in digital physical therapy programs. They noticed that often these programs took a more holistic approach to treatment and gave a lot of reassurance and guidance to their users.

If you are considering trying a virtual physical therapy program you can check out options like those from LivaFortis, OneStep, and Omada Health.

Digital Physical therapy programs like the one from LivaFortis can help overcome fear avoidance for exercise.


No matter what type of exercise you pick, finding something that you enjoy is key. You can also speak with your doctor or physical therapist to help you find something that specifically addresses your unique condition and concerns.

For some people, that might be having a personal trainer who has a special understanding of low back conditions and who can also help guide and support you through your workouts. For others, the solution might be a digital physical therapy program that offers something similar, but that is a bit more mobile.

LivaFortis explores fear avoidance behaviors for back pain treatments

One thing that is key for everyone - no matter what your workout preference is - is that when you first start working out you have to be patient with yourself. Your body will need some time to get used to the new program and to using your muscles again.

You may feel a bit sort and tired in the beginning and sometimes the pain might even feel a bit worse. Give yourself time to get used to the new workout plan and allow your body to feel and learn the difference between pain and a little bit of appropriate "soreness" after an exercise session.

Over time you will start to feel the benefits of the strengthening exercises and you will also start to feel the benefits of the awesome feel -good endorphins that come with working out.


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