Niki McGuinness (Chiropractor) BSc Chiro; B Clin Chiro; BSc (HONS) Nursing; Post Grad Cert


These exercises are for information only. You should seek a professional assessment of your complaint before embarking on any exercise routine particularly if you have a new complaint of low back pain. Some of these exercises may aggravate or worsen your complaint. 

When you suddenly experience low back pain for the first time, it can often be confusing as to how to change your exercise routine to adapt to your pain. In fact, many patients cease exercising altogether for fear of worsening their complaint. However Research has shown that stopping exercising and doing what we call ‘fear avoidance’ behaviour can actually have a negative effect on a patient’s prognosis (how quickly they recover).

So here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to the gym but in a nutshell, IF IT HURTS, DON’T DO IT!

Abdominal Crunches – aka sit ups

Abdominal crunches and leg raises are ‘so 1980’s.’ We want to leave these exercises back with Jane Fonda and her sweat bands.

Studies have shown that doing abdominal crunches or leg raises when you have poor core activation, will mostly involve recruiting your anterior neck muscles (and worsen your neck pain) or your strong, over-active hip flexors. In addition, we know that the rectus abdominus is purely a mirror muscle ( it looks good in the mirror) and if you want to support your back whilst flattening your stomach, you should focus on the Transverse Abdominus muscle.

Alternative: McGill Curl Up, the forearm plank, the Russian twist (more advanced)


Now I am a big fan of deadlifts, if you have read my previous blog on deadlifts (deadlifts: friend or foe?) you will know why. However, if you are currently suffering back pain there is a high chance your core and pelvic stability muscles have switched down resulting in your ‘back’ muscles becoming more reactivate and receptive to strain. I always say’ deadlifting is like the ocean it’s beautiful in its form, but it has the potential to destruct’

Alternative Romanian deadlift (advanced), quadruped, superman prone

High ballistic/impact

When we describe ‘ballistic’ it’s basically the force of the foot landing on the ground from a height or the use of acceleration with deceleration (stopping and starting) such as with soccer. This type of exercises requires strong core stability in order for the lumbar spine to be supported in its movement. If we take gravity away from this equation, this is usually the best way to still get your heart rate up without the force of gravity weighing on your joints.

Alternative: cross-trainer, stationary or moving bike, water-based aerobics