Daily stretching and strengthening is a good bet for preventing attacks of low back pain, according to the August 2013 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch. "An episode of acute low back pain is a call to action for people who are simply not exercisers," says Dr. Jeffrey N. Katz, professor of orthopedic surgery and medicine at Harvard Medical School and editor of Low Back Pain: Healing your aching back, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. "It is a good time to make a commitment to exercise when you are starting to feel a bit better—typically in a few weeks."
Exercise is a good choice for low back pain due to muscle strain or muscle spasm. Daily gentle exercises will stretch and strengthen the muscles that support the lower spine. Stronger and more flexible muscles may be less prone to injury. If the pain traces to a problem in the spine, however, don't start a new exercise plan without talking to a doctor. Warning signs of a spinal problem are pain that radiates from the back down into the leg and a tingling "pins and needles" sensation.
So far, no specific type or level of exercise has been identified that works better than others for preventing low back pain. However, people who exercise regularly, compared with those who do not, tend to have fewer recurrences of back pain over time.
The Harvard Men's Health Watch also has some advice for those interested in trying alternative medicine for back pain, such as tai chi and yoga. Gentle yoga has shown some promise for low back pain. But whatever form of exercise you try, approach it as a trial run with a specific endpoint. "It doesn't take a year to establish that a type of exercise, like yoga, doesn't work. But it's all right to give something a try," advises Dr. Katz.
Read the full-length article: "Daily exercise to prevent low back pain"