Your wellbeing

Movements to ease back pain

Movement can be the best way to help ease your back pain. Here are some tips to help you keep active.

Discover the joy of movement

You are not alone if you currently have back pain, which is one of the most common types of body pain. Discovering how to reduce your pain can help you to live life to the full once more.

When you’re in pain, it’s natural to try to avoid moving too much. After all, it hurts! But keeping the body active every day is one of the best ways to manage and prevent pain. Even if you feel some discomfort at first, it is worth persevering as moving helps to avoid stiffness, keeps your muscles strong and aids the healing process.

You may relieve back pain with some gentle back exercises and activities. Rediscover the joy of movement and don’t be held back by back pain.


Low-impact aerobic exercise like walking has been shown to help relieve lower back pain. It’s simple and free and easy to work into your daily routine. Take a walk to work or when you go shopping, for example. Walking helps to strengthen the muscles that keep the body in the upright position, and improves the stability of the spine.

Take a break

Sitting for long periods, for example at work, puts pressure on the lower (lumbar) spine and can cause lower back pain. To relieve this pressure, take regular breaks to stand up and walk around.


The spine is designed to move, so limiting motion can make pain worse. Try some simple back stretches to help relieve back pain and improve movement. Remember to move slowly, never force your body into a painful stretch, and use an even, stable surface on which to stretch.

Discover the joy of movement


Your spine is S-shaped and prevents shock to your head when you walk or run. It is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae.*

Back flex

  • Lie on your back and pull both knees up towards your chest
  • Flex the head forwards until you feel a comfortable stretch in this position
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds
  • Repeat 5-10 times

Knee to chest

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and both heels flat on the floor
  • Place both hands behind one knee and bring as close to the chest as possible
  • Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds, repeat with the other leg
  • Repeat 5-10 times for each leg


Swimming can be great exercise to help relieve back pain because it puts virtually no pressure on the spine and back, as the water supports your whole body. It is important to get advice on the proper technique, however, as some strokes can put stress on your back and neck.

*BBC Science & Nature - Human Body and Mind - Skeleton Layer. 2016. BBC Science & Nature - Human Body and Mind - Skeleton Layer. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 April 2016].

Strengthen your core

Strengthening your core muscles, found around your trunk, stomach, back and pelvis, can help to relieve lower back pain and improve stability and balance. Any exercise that involves using your abdominal and back muscles together counts as a core exercise. One core exercise that may ease back pain by strengthening the muscles that support the spine is deep abdominal strengthening.

How to do deep abdominal strengthening

94% of people feel pain in their back, particularly their lower back*
  • Lie on your back with a small flat cushion or book under your head
  • Bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart
  • Keep your upper body relaxed, with your chin gently tucked in
  • As you breathe out, draw up the muscles of your pelvis and lower abdominals
  • Don’t tense up too much, this is a gentle contraction
  • Hold the position for 5-10 slow breaths and relax
  • Repeat 5 times

Always check with your healthcare team before starting any new exercise routine. If you feel a sharp or sudden pain while exercising, stop immediately and seek medical help.

**Global Pain Index Summary Report 2014. Available: Last accessed 20th April 2016.

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*GSK Global Pain Index Research 2014, report, p. 9

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88% of people globally experience body pain* 88% of people globally experience body pain*