Should I Keep Exercising if My Back Hurts?

Reviewed on 1/27/2022
Should I Keep Exercising if My Back Hurts
If your back hurts, you should stop exercising for a few days and avoid pushing through the pain

If your back hurts, you should stop exercising for a few days and avoid pushing through the pain

How long you should pause before resuming a workout routine depends on the cause and severity of your back pain.

How to identify what is causing your back pain

If you are new to exercising and have just started experiencing back pain, it may be due to muscle soreness which can cause a dull ache and tenderness. Muscle soreness from exercise should go away within 24-72 hours.

However, if the pain does not go away even after 72 hours and is so severe that it affects your day-to-day functions, it is most likely due to a medical condition or other causes such as bad posture.

If you have noticed that a particular exercise causes back pain, stop immediately. Causes may include:

  • Incorrect form
  • Spinal problem
  • Too heavy weights

What are other causes of back pain?

If muscle soreness is not the cause of your back pain, other potential causes may include:

When should you call a doctor about back pain?

Steps you can take to relieve the pain or soreness that comes after exercise include rest and cold pack applications. You can buy frozen gels or make your own ice pack at home, applying over your sore muscles for 15-20 minutes about 3-4 times a day. In most cases, back pain from exercise resolves on its own with few self-care measures. 

However, consult a doctor if your back pain:

  • Is severe
  • Lasts for more than a few weeks
  • Does not subside with rest
  • Extends down one or both legs
  • Causes weakness, numbness, or tingling in one or both legs
  • Is accompanied by unexplained weight loss or fever

Precautions to take if you develop back pain after exercising

If you develop back pain after exercising, bad posture may be the culprit. Here are tips for maintaining correct form and posture:

  • Stand upright. Do not slouch or slump. Try to keep your back straight or in a neutral position.
  • Sit up straight. If you have to sit for long periods of time, make sure you sit on a chair that has good arm support. Your knees and hips should be in a line. You can use a pillow to support your back from behind if your chair does not have back support.
  • Lift with your legs. Avoid heavy lifting if possible. If you do need to lift something heavy, keep your back straight and bend only at the knees, holding the weight close to your body and letting your legs do the work. 
  • Warm-up stretches. Always do warm-up exercises before workouts that involve using your back muscles.
  • Change your footwear. Avoid wearing high heels and other uncomfortable shoes, as they can affect your posture and lead to back pain.


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What exercises to avoid if you have back pain

There are certain moves or exercises you should avoid in case they cause or aggravate your back pain:

  • Standing toe touches: Standing toe touches exert a lot of stress on the discs and ligaments in your spine. They can overstretch lower back muscles and aggravate your back pain.
  • Sit-ups: Sit-ups can strengthen your core muscles but they can put stress on the discs in your spine.
  • Lifting weights over your shoulders: Doing weight-training exercises that involve lifting weights on your shoulder or overhead puts pressure on your spine and can trigger back pain.
  • Normal crunches: Try partial crunches instead, which can help strengthen your back muscles without aggravating pain. Partial crunches keep your lower back and tailbone on the floor and exert less pressure on your spine.
  • High-impact movements: If you have back pain, avoid high-impact moves such as jumping. Switch to low-impact variations that are easier on your back.

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