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Best types of exercise for Pain Relief

Squat Exercise for lower back pain

Exercise for conditions like low back pain is an essential part of getting relief.

The year 2017 has arrived with a flurry (pardon my pun) of activity and news. There are new headlines about the world, weather events all over, and Beyoncé is pregnant with twins! While most of us resolve to exercise more, it is easy to get sidetracked. There are plenty of good reasons to exercise. Today, we will discuss just one, the analgesic (or pain relief) benefits of exercise.

Exercise for conditions like low back pain is an essential part of getting relief from low back pain. Exercise-induced pain relief is a great reason to do core exercises every day. In 2012, Kelly M. Naugle, and colleagues reviewed the studies performed in this area. The difference between different types of exercises in asymptomatic populations, and clinical populations. We understand that exercises, like core exercises for low back pain, have a pain relief benefit, but we want to have a better understanding of what exercise works best under certain circumstances.


Aerobic exercises often include cycling, running/walking on a treadmill, or stepping. This type of exercise for pain, like low back pain, knee pain or neck pain, has been shown to have a moderate effect on pain threshold and intensity. Moderate to high-intensity exercises at a duration longer than 10 minutes was shown to work the best for pain relief. This area of study of exercise for pain relief is considered limited by a lower number of studies and requires more research. An excellent example of this type of exercise for low back pain is walking programs that have shown to improve low back pain.


Isometric exercise (where the muscle is loaded, but the joint does not move) has been shown to have a moderate to large pain reducing effect both during and following the exercises. The best results seem to come from lower intensity contractions, held for longer periods of time. The effect of the exercises seems to be limited to the region of muscle contraction. For example, if you have low back pain and perform an isometric exercise of the lumbar erector spinal musculature, the pain relief effect of the exercise will be limited to the area. Therefore, isometric exercises for pain relief should be targeted to the areas of pain. An example of this type of exercise for low back pain would be a side-plank.

There are a couple of ways you can do a side plank.


Dynamic resistance exercise has been studied the least of the group. An example of these exercises is ten repetitions of 75% of a one repetition maximum effort. Effects of this type of exercise appear to be large, even though there are not many studies looking at this area. For this reason, it has been difficult to identify best practices for the use of this type of exercise. An excellent example of this kind of exercise for low back pain would be a weighted squat.

Based on research in this area, more studies should be done, and more are forthcoming. The important underlying message is that exercise can provide pain relief. The benefits of each type of exercise underscore the importance of finding the right exercise for each individual. Seeing the pain-relief benefits can help many people in pain make the transition from passive coping mechanisms to active coping mechanisms, which can lead to overall improved outcomes when dealing with an injury like low back pain.

Written by Ben Matheson. Like this blog post? Sign up to our newsletter, or read our other blog posts here!

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