If you suffer from a lower back condition—like a lumbar herniated disc or spinal stenosis—your doctor will likely recommend exercise as part of your treatment program.

See Causes of Lower Back Pain

But what should you do if your exercise regimen exacerbates your lower back condition? Should you work through the pain?

See Video: If My Back or Joints Hurt, Should I Work Through the Pain?


Before we talk about whether you should work through your lower back pain, let’s quickly look at the difference between soreness and pain related to a lower back condition. Minor soreness is a natural result of exercise, and it is especially prominent amongst those who are new to exercising.

Soreness is characterized by a dull, aching feeling—and your back muscles may also feel tender or rigid. It is important to note that soreness from exercise typically subsides within 24 to 72 hours.

In contrast, pain related to a lower back injury is your body’s way of telling you that you are doing something wrong. This pain is typically moderate to severe, and often results in restrictions to your day-to-day functioning. So if you have to adjust your daily schedule as a result of lower back pain after exercise, this pain is likely related to a lower back condition.

See Lower Back Pain Symptoms

Should you work through your lower back pain?

If a particular exercise is exacerbating your lower back pain, you should not try to work through the pain. This is because, as previously mentioned, pain is typically your body’s way of telling you that you’re doing something wrong. Your pain may be alerting you to any of the following:

  • You are performing the particular exercise wrong
  • The exercise you are performing is not designed for your lower back condition
  • You have another injury or lower back condition you are not aware of

See Diagnosing Lower Back Pain

So if you are experiencing pain caused by exercising, stop right away. Next, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a consultation to review your symptoms and exercise program.

Exercise alternatives

When it comes to dealing with lower back pain caused by exercise, the goal is typically to work around, not through the pain. For example, if your lower back pain is made worse by running, you can substitute this activity for a low-impact aerobic exercise like riding an exercise bike. Your doctor or physical therapist can help you find alternatives for whatever exercise is troubling you.

See How a Physical Therapist Can Help with Exercise

Additionally, water therapy is also an effective option for many people who struggle with pain caused by exercise. Water therapy can help relieve the stress and strain on your lower back structures, and may also be performed in a heated pool for additional pain relief.

See Water Therapy Exercise Program


I hope all of the above advice will help you find long-term relief from your lower back pain.

See Early Treatments for Lower Back Pain

Learn more:

Back Strengthening Exercises

Exercise Walking for Better Back Health

Dr. Dipan Patel is an anesthesiologist and interventional pain physician at Garden State Pain Control Center in New Jersey. He specializes in treating chronic pain disorders affecting the spine, muscles, brain, and joints.