Weak back and abdominal muscles — due to deconditioning or age — cause or exacerbate many cases of low back pain. That’s why stretching and strengthening both your back and abdominal muscles is important not only for treating low back pain, but also for helping to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
Exercise strengthens and stretches the muscles that support the spine. A stretching and strengthening regimen should target the back, abdominal, and buttock muscles. Strong abdominal or flexor muscles, for example, help people maintain an upright posture, as do strong extensor muscles, which run the full length of the back and maintain alignment of the vertebrae.
Stretching is a valuable component of any treatment plan for a person plagued by back problems. Most experts believe that supple, well-stretched muscles are less prone to injury. Indeed, shorter, less flexible muscle and connective tissues restrict joint mobility, which increases the likelihood of sprains and strains.
Certain aerobic activities are safer for your back than others. For instance, bicycling (either stationary or regular), swimming, and walking lead the list of low-risk, high-benefit activities for most people’s backs. All are low- or minimal-impact exercises that strengthen muscles which support the back. None involve awkward or stressful actions that are detrimental to back muscles.
Sports and activities such as football, tennis, gymnastics, wrestling, weight lifting, rowing (crew), running, aerobic dance, and ballet involve a relatively high risk for back injury because of the extension, lifting, or impacts involved. Other unnatural motions that could induce pain include back arching (during gymnastics and diving), twisting (while hitting a golf ball, swinging at a baseball, or bowling), vertical jolting (while riding a horse), and stretching your legs strenuously (when hiking or when balancing a sailboat during a race).