Back hurts? Find out how NOT to exercise!

“Doctor, I can’t bend over, my back hurts.”

“So don’t bend over.”

A corny joke, right? But if we were told to sit up straight, not slouch, pull in our navel and strengthen our core, we’d treat it completely seriously.

Yet research and practice show that paying too much attention to ‘proper posture’, avoiding movements such as bends and twists, and strengthening our core often fails to deliver the results we’d like to see.

Check out how you can really help yourself when your back hurts.


The diaphragm, often shown on anatomical posters as a thin line, is in fact a powerful muscle – the main respiratory muscle responsible for stabilising the spine and controlling the body’s balance. Find out how to breathe properly!

  1. Place your hands on your sides near the lower ribs and test your relaxed breathing (thumbs towards the back, fingers in front pointing towards the navel). Your breathing should cause a 3-dimensional movement.
  2. When breathing in, your hands should feel a delicate inflation, at the sides and to the back as your lower ribs expand, and to the front as your abdomen relaxes and pushes out slightly.
  3. Breathing out is the next phase, in which “things loosen up” underneath your hands and you have time to very gently bring your navel in towards your spine. Breathing involves a process involving continuous motion – don’t interfere with it by constantly keeping your abdomen contracted!
Remember: the harder you work out, the “stronger” you breathe. That’s why any adverse effects of improper breathing – including on the spine – increase during physical effort.


If you back hurts, start moving more during the day – not through exercise, but movement, such as changing your body position as often as possible.

Are you using a rotating chair on wheels? Get rid of it! Just think: every time you use the functions of the chair (moving across the floor, turning) you deprive your body of a chance to move – you move through space passively instead of using your own joints, muscles and tissues.

Unused structures become stiff, lose flexibility and cease working together (‘use it or lose it’). In such a case you won’t help yourself by doing sit-ups (which require spinal mobility) or planks (which stiffen you even more).


When you go training (that is, for one hour squeezed in the middle of several hours of being sedentary), don’t do exercises that increase tension and impede breathing. Though it looks great in pictures on social media, planking is a stationary position where we fight against gravity in order to create additional tension.

If you have any problems at all with bending over easily, e.g. to tie your shoes, then forget (for a time) about planking. Instead, try body and mind exercises that come under names like harmony, yoga flow, mobility, or healthy spine. Walking and dancing are always good, too.

Choose what loosens you up and restores the proper functioning of your body tissues. Breathe, and trust your body – it’s the most perfect machine in the universe.

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