If you have mild back pain, your first instinct is to rest. Stay on the couch for a while, use a heating pad, and just rest up until it stops hurting. In actuality, the best remedy may be to keep moving. Light, low-impact exercise can help, and being up and moving around takes pressure off your lower back. Too much rest can make your pain worse and increase stiffness.

You may assume that your back pain is just tight muscles and thus try to stretch and continue your exercise. You want to strengthen your core or loosen up your hamstring muscles. You take yoga. You get a massage. But what if you are still in pain?

According to Dr. Michael Noonan, the advice to exercise is valid only for people with mild to moderate pain and without certain back conditions. If you stretch, do pilates, walk, jog, or do whatever exercise you love and you’re still pain – chances are, you have something more than generalized back pain.

Exercise may be making you feel worse if you have arthritis or a slipped, ruptured or herniated disc (these three terms are mostly interchangeable). These are more serious than mild to moderate back pain that could just be muscle soreness.

The analogy given by Dr. Noonan is one that many chiropractors like to use: Compare your joint alignment with car tire alignment. “The comparison is certainly oversimplified, but can be used for our purposes,” he said. “If your tires are out of alignment, it only makes sense that the harder and faster you drive the car, the more stress there will be on the tires and all their supporting structures.”

So if your joint is not working properly, exercise will make it feel worse. If you have painful arthritis in your spine, or if you suspect you may have a herniated disc, see a physician. It is usually not going to get better on its own.

To learn more about treatments for your back pain, contact us or call our dedicated Medical Concierge at 800-890-1964.