back pain and exercise

I’m 32 and in reasonably good health except for lower back pain recently (past week or so). No trauma that I can recall; just woke up with it one morning. Couple of things I know I need to do:

  1. Lose some weight. I’m kinda thin but I’ve developed a paunch since my metabolism and appetite no longer march in lockstep.

  2. Get a new mattress. The one I’ve got is only a few months old, but not as firm as I’d like. (It was cheap, ok)

In addition to the above-mentioned solutions, are there any exercises I can do to strengthen my back muscles? Anything not recommended?

thanks in advance -J

IANAHealth Professional, but you could probably get some benefit from swimming. I have no clue what the root cause of your back problem is, so certainly see a health professional before doing ANY exercise, but if it’s a muscular thing, the water will stop so much pressure being on your back muscles, while allowing you to stretch it in a way that, hopefully, feels good and helps you.

Definitely see doctor before starting anything. Not to alarm you, but my herniated disk started out as a little lower back pain in the morning that I didn’t do anything about for a few months. One day it got much worse.

Yoga is an excellent exercise for back problems. Depending on the cause of your problem, running and biking can be very bad - they are for me.

I agree with seeing a doctor first but in general you need to think of your torso as a tube, strengthening your abs does wonders for your back. A doctor and/or physiotherapist should be able to tailor a program for you depending on exactly where your problem lies and how severe it is.

If it’s not a muscle weakness problem, the best thing you can do is the barbell military press. It works every muscle in your torso.

Sorry–I mean that to read “If it is a muscle weakness problem…”

I had back pain after a surgery that allowed me to walk upright after living with a cane for a couple of years. I had SUCH back pain, so I can tell you there are zillions of books out there on the subject. Personally, I learned that walking was the cure for me at the time; but, to keep my back strong I swim. I do stretches, about 50, sideways, and back and forth, and then do leg lifts on my back, making sure I’m using my stomach muscles, hanging onto the edge of the pool. Then I swim 15 laps. In the gym I do lifts pulling a weight overhead on an incline board. Just 3 sets of 8, 3X a week for that one. In the morning, before you get out of bed, to eliminate the water that collects in your vertebrae during the night, which can cause stress and pain when you get up, bend your knees to your chest and hold 30 seconds a few times. Then turn on your stomach and raise up on your elbows and hold and gently stretch. I personally feel that keeping limber helps prevent a lot of problems because it is those sudden, unexpected movements (like a fall) that can cause problems; I took a terrible fall a couple of months ago and even though I’m getting up there, I recovered well. I know it was because my muscles are strong and my body is flexible (I’m not thin however!).

      • I have the same problem too, after I wake up. I can say what works for me: stretching after waking. You lie on your back and link your hands behind your head and place your elbows straight out left-right, then bring your legs together up about halfway and bent at the knees. Then “roll” your knees & hips as far to one side as you can while keeping your head/elbows level, then to the other side. I repeat this 3-5 times holding the stretch for a few seconds, and it makes an amazing (to me) amount of difference. The stretching isn’t painful, just tight. (Note that I don’t have any specific injuries or history of back problems).

T’ai Chi Ch’uan is a very good discipline to follow, too.