Dealing with back pain- should I rest or train?

Dealing with back pain- should I rest or train?

Back pain is something we see daily in our clinics. It is one of the most common health problems in the world. I’m sure if you speak to the person you’re standing next to, and ask them whether they have ever experienced back pain in their life their answer will be yes. I’m an active 26 year old and I have experienced back pain many times, so I know how disabling it can be to our daily life. The main thing is learning how to get on with your daily routine such as training, and hopefully I can help you with that.

Back pain can occur via the smallest things such as bending down to tie your shoe laces, putting dishes in the dishwasher, running, deadlifting or even just sleeping on a different bed.

When you have back pain the first thing we all think of is… REST! Rest can sometimes be the worst thing. Complete rest can make you stiffen up and pain could then potentially worsen. The best thing is to find the most comfortable position and work in that range. If bending down is painful, avoid this and perhaps bend through your knees more to allow the back to settle, then reintroduce this in a pain free range when comfortable. If laying on your front eases the pain, then do this, don’t force yourself into positions which are painful. So therefore you’re resting from the painful ranges of motion in the back but still keeping your back moving in other ranges. It is important that you look to reintroduce small movements back in which were previously painful as soon as possible, ensuring you’re only going into a pain free range.

With back pain everyone has that fear of training, you aren’t the only one. You will have fear of the movement that you feel might set if off such as the deadlift. However, if performed correctly, this movement is an awesome movement for strengthening those back muscles, but that’s not me telling you to do this whilst you have back pain. First thing you would need to do is tell one of the coaches! They are awesome at giving advice for any injuries and will allow you to find a way to train around it, not through it. Training is great for back pain, it gets the body moving which increases blood flow to your back which therefore, increases the healing process. The main thing is about being intelligent when you train with back pain. Don’t shy away from the gym, use it as your recovery back to full exercise. The longer you rest the further you’re away from getting back to your goals and targets in the gym.

Training advice if struggling with back pain:

1) Avoid lifting from the floor

2) Avoid impact

3) Decrease load/weight

4) Avoid anything that’s painful- let the coaches know, as they will find an alternative

Keep it simple.


We can train around injury…

1) Potentially we can change deadlifting to romanian deadlifts, glute bridges, sumo deadlifts etc.

2) Impact movements painful? Perform down ups instead of burpees, maybe add a stepping out movement with the legs or even use a plate to put your hands on so you aren’t reaching down to the floor.

3) Squatting painful? Box squat instead or wall sit- we can still add some weight to these it will just decrease the ranges your back is going into.

4) Kettle bell swings painful? Decrease these to russian swings or even just lower the weight.

Pain free exercise has been shown to be the best medicine for back pain. Motion is lotion. Keep the body moving.

The next step would be working out why this pain occurred? If it is a movement from the gym, such as not hinging through the hips in a deadlift, it is important that we work out the reason why it occurred so it doesn’t occur again. If it was poor hinging from the hips in a deadlift, we would look at performing romanian deadlifts to increase your range and control in this movement then transfer to deadlifting once the form is good. We all hate working on our weaknesses but it’s the best way to avoid injury.

Always speak to your coach before class to update them on your pain to allow them to help you comfortably train and get the best work out possible.

I am a Sports Therapist based upstairs in LiftOff. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch at or you can book online here

Jessica Woodhouse

BSc Hons Sport Therapy MSST