Exercise is the first pain management regime you should consider.
Regular exercise in any form – even light exercise – will reduce pain and increase your mobility.1

1. Psychological Benefits

The connection between exercise and mental well-being is well documented. It releases endorphins and serotonin into your brain.

Both are known to improve your mood and outlook on life. Your body’s very own pain relief.

2. Physical Exercises

Exercise of any type reduces pain and disability and no one type is better than any other. The key is to choose the one you are happy to do....and do it regularly.

Ideally it should include some resistance and some balance exercises, plus walking.

Success factors

Be Consistent
Exercising regularly is the single biggest factor in successful pain management even if your exercise only lasts 20 minutes. Just do it 3-5 times per week and the benefits will build up over time and you will start to feel better.

Shorter bursts of exercise during one day can be added together towards your total.

The Pain Barrier
The point of exercise is to exert your body through movement so that muscles are used, joints moved, and you gradually increase your mobility. If you are managing chronic pain, then initially movement may be painful, but it is OK to work with pain to a reasonable level.

If you have new or increasing pain, then seek advice before continuing.

Technique – Expert Guidance
Doing an exercise with poor technique can cause more harm than good. There are plenty of good videos on YouTube. It might also help to obtain specific instruction from your exercise expert, whether that is a physiotherapist or fitness instructor.


Walking is as good as any other physical exercise in reducing pain and disability. It is the primary and most basic form of exercise we can do and is still one of the best.2

After all, millions of years of evolution went into designing our bodies to walk and run. It’s hard to argue with nature.

Aqua Fitness

Swimming is a great choice if you enjoy it.

Alternatively, exercising in the pool provides 50 – 100% body support depending on the exercise and the depth of the pool. It also gives resistance for your muscles to work against. It is particularly good for people with chronic pain conditions. Supervised aqua fitness classes are available at most public swimming pools.

Lumbar Stabilising – ‘Core – Exercises’

These focus on strengthening your core body muscles which are around your trunk: front and back. These are the muscles that stabilize and support your spine. Strengthening your core muscles helps relieve back pain.3

Options include Pilates or yoga classes, or guided exercises from a fitness instructor or physiotherapist.

General Strengthening Exercises

These help stabilise your spine, increase your mobility and improve your balance. Great for pain management.

It is however important that it’s done safely:

  • Make sure you have specific instruction and supervision.
  • Weightlifting machines with seats and pulleys are safe.
  • Avoid heavy weights and stability balls.

3. Return to Work

Light, regular exercise improves return to work rates.


4. Online Resource

This is a good resource developed by the Australian government:


5. General Advice Alert

These health tips are based on sound scientific research but are necessarily generalised.

It is recommended that you get personalised guidance from your GP, physiotherapist, or fitness instructor.


6. Selected References

1. Shipton EA. Physical Therapy Approaches in the Treatment of Low Back PainPain Ther. 2018;7(2):127-137.
2. Sitthipornvorakul E, Klinsophon T, Sihawong R, Janwantanakul P. The effects of walking intervention in patients with chronic low back pain: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Musculoskelet Sci Pract. 2018;34:38-46.
3. Standaert CJ, Weinstein SM, Rumpeltes J. Evidence-informed management of chronic low back pain with lumbar stabilization exercises. Spine J. 2008;8(1):114-120.