If you suffer from chronic or acute back pain, you’ve likely noticed some relief from the pain when you move around. This phenomenon has a scientific explanation behind it. Understanding why movement helps alleviate back pain can help you manage your condition.
How Movement Helps With Back Pain
There are a few key reasons why movement tends to reduce back pain:
- Improved blood flow – When you move and exercise, blood circulation increases throughout the body, including to the structures in the back like muscles, tendons, discs, and nerves. Enhanced blood flow delivers oxygen and nutrients that can help heal injured tissues. It also carries away inflammatory compounds that contribute to pain.
- Increased endorphins – Moderate exercise causes the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals. Endorphins block pain signals and induce a feeling of euphoria. Even simple movements like walking can trigger the release of endorphins and reduce back pain.
- Strengthening muscles – The muscles that support the spine play an important role in preventing and reducing back pain. Regular movement and exercise help strengthen core and back muscles so they can better support the vertebrae and discs. Stronger muscles around the spine take pressure off sore areas.
- Lubricating joints – The facet joints in the spine need to be lubricated with synovial fluid to move smoothly without friction and pain. Movement helps draw nutrient-rich fluid into the joints, keeping them flexible and pain-free.
- Improving flexibility – Tight muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the back can cause strain, spasms, and pain. Stretching and exercise increase flexibility in the back, which takes pressure off nerves and sore spots. Better flexibility reduces the chances of future injury.
- Postural benefits – Poor posture often contributes to back strain and pain. Regular movement and exercise help improve posture by strengthening the core muscles. Good posture reduces stress on the spine and prevents many types of pain.
- Stress relief – Chronic back pain can create major stress. The act of exercise releases feel-good endorphins that help calm the mind. Being active serves as a distraction from nagging pain. Reduced stress levels then translate into less muscle tension and pain.
Best Exercises for Back Pain Relief
Certain types of exercise are particularly helpful when it comes to alleviating back pain:
- Walking – One of the simplest ways to get moving, walking helps lubricate spinal joints, improves circulation, and strengthens muscles. Start with short, frequent walks and gradually increase distance.
- Yoga – Yoga combines movement, stretching, and deep breathing. The combination gently loosens tight muscles, improves flexibility, and reduces stress. Focus on poses that feel good.
- Swimming – The buoyancy of water makes swimming an ideal exercise if most movements are too painful. It takes pressure off the spine while conditioning muscles.
- Aerobics – Low-impact aerobic exercise like elliptical training or cycling maintains spine mobility and releases feel-good endorphins. Avoid high-impact activities like jumping.
- Stretching – Simple stretches for the back, hamstrings, and hips promote flexibility and pain relief. Try easy yoga poses or gentle twists and folds of the upper body.
- Strength training – Lifting weights, resisted exercises, and isometrics strengthen the back and core muscles for better spine support. Focus on good form and avoid strain. Start very light.
While exercise can seem counterintuitive when you’re in pain, keeping the back muscles conditioned is key to managing chronic back pain. Always talk to your doctor about the best movement plan for your specific condition. Start slow, be consistent, and choose activities you enjoy.