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Back Pain From Working Out

By Dana Green ; Updated August 14, 2017

If you are experiencing back pain after exercising or playing sports, you need to take it seriously. An acute muscle strain or pull may require ice, stabilizing or long-term rest if you want it to heal properly. If your back pain does not go away after rest and treatment, it could be a more long-term or chronic condition.

Acute Injury

Although injuries to the upper, or thoracic, area of the back can occur from exercise, most sports-related back injuries are to the lower lumbar region. Acute, or short-term back pain, can be caused by lifting excessive weight, twisting or bending during a strenuous workout, or contact during a sports game. Symptoms can include a sharp pain, a dull ache, swelling, limited range of motion or difficulty standing upright.

Chronic Conditions

There are chronic back conditions, such as a herniated disc, osteoporosis, spondylitis and other disorders that require the attention of a specialist. But most short-term back pain is caused by a pull or strain of the back muscles or ligaments. Often it can be treated at home -- especially if you start treatment right away.

Strains or Pulls

When the muscles in the lower back are strained, inflammation and muscle spasms can occur. Luckily, you can heal this type of injury fairly quickly, with rest, anti-inflammatory medication, ice and heat. Lying down usually helps relieve severe pain in most situations.


Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help knock out the swelling, which can provide immediate relief. For a severe injury, a doctor might prescribe steroids or narcotics, according to the American Academy of Orthaepedic Surgeons website. You can try applying ice to the injury immediately, then alternating with a heating pad to loosen tight muscles around the injury. Bed rest can help relieve the symptoms, but doctors do not advise resting more than two or three days. After that, it is best to begin recovering range of motion and re-gaining strength by doing simple back exercises and working back into an exercise routine.

Core Exercises

Everyone has three groups of muscles that support their spine during exercise or movement: extensors in the back and glutes; flexors in the deep abdominal muscles and hips; and the obliques, side abdominal muscles that rotate and stabilize. According to, most of us do not strengthen these muscles enough during daily activity -- we need to target these deep core muscles in order to protect our back and do our workout routine safely.

There are dozens of abdominal- and back-strengthening exercises, and a physical therapist or personal trainer can walk you through many of these exercises. Just a few to include in your weekly workout: back extensions, hip flexor stretching, abdominal planks, sit-ups or crunches, bicycles for obliques, and deadlifts for strengthening and stretching the hamstrings. Add these core exercises to your routine, and your lower back pain will be a thing of the past, allowing you to do your workout without risking injury.

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