I Get Back Pain During Sit Ups... Am I Doing Something Wrong? - Paul Gough Physio Rooms

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I Get Back Pain During Sit Ups… Am I Doing Something Wrong?

Exercising that many of our patients at the Paul Gough Physio Rooms want to continue with as they move into retirement. Keeping active and healthy often becomes a priority as we notice slight changes. But what happens when you get back pain from the thing that was meant to help? 

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Recently at the Paul Gough Physio Rooms, we had a lady email the clinic and she asked: 

‘I get back pain during sit-ups. Am I doing something wrong, or should I avoid them?’  

This is something that many people, not just our patients, worry about when exercising and the thought of back pain puts them off wanting to improve their health through exercise.  

So… if you’ve ever tried to do an ab workout and realised halfway through that your back is feeling odd, possibly even painful – you’re not alone.  

I’m glad this lady asked this question, because this time of year we see a big rise in the number of people suffering with back pain, especially as they get more active in preparation for the summer months.  

And even though sit-ups are one of the most common go to exercises to get your abs “summer ready” … you need to ask yourself the following:  

  • Are sit-ups really that effective?
  • Are sit-ups the real cause of your pain, not just your back pain?

For me, as well as my patients in the clinic, the pain and twinge in my back comes with any ab exercise that asks me to sit on my bottom and move my legs.  

In the blog, you’ll learn all about why you get back pain when exercising, especially when doing sit-ups, why back pain happens and what you can do it fix it.  

Why does back pain happen when we do sit-ups?

To understand why this happens, you need to remember that the abs and lower back are a part of your core.  

While we often think of our core as being solely our abs – they’re only one part of the equation!  

If your lower back isn’t strong enough, the core exercises you’re doing (with all the right intentions) might just simply be asking too much of your back… which then causes your muscles to strain. Or, if you have a weakness anywhere else in your body, your lower (and upper) back may compensate by taking on more than it can handle.  

But pain during exercise doesn’t always mean that your back or core are weak – the pain in your back can also be a sign that the way you exercise might need tweaking.  

What can I do to help my back pain?

Are you doing sit-ups properly?

One of the most common mistakes we see when people are doing sit-ups and other abdominal exercises is hyperextension.  

I know that sounds scary!  

But it’s (quite simply) when your hips are causing a curve in your spine. To fix this try and keep your lower back glued to the floor (not literally!) to help keep your tailbone tucked and your spine straight.  

This might feel unnatural at first, but that’s because every small misstep in how you performed the exercise has been putting pressure on your spine… and now you’re doing it right!  

Do you have tight muscles and feeling tired (fatigue)?  

If your glutes and hips are really tight, there’s a chance you’ll feel strain in your back during any daily activities, not just when you exercise.  

When you’re tired your muscles stop functioning properly and your body will begin to look to neighbouring muscles to compensate – which is often the lower back and hips!  

So… what can you actually do to stop back pain from getting in the way? 

It’s easy!  

Stop any movements that cause you pain. Any pain is your bodies way of telling you to stop what you’re doing – no matter what.  

Basically, if it doesn’t feel good… don’t do it!  

Are you sure it’s sit-ups that’s hurting your back? CLICK HERE to read about how you can improve your posture.  

Are there any alternative exercises to help ease back pain?

You don’t need to solely do sit-ups to get that summer-ready body! 

Exercises like dead bugs, glute bridges and planks are all great examples of movements that will help strengthen your back and entire core along with decreasing your chances of getting any injuries, such as back pain.  

Other exercises that aren’t specifically designed to target the abs (such as lunges, kettlebell swings, and body-weight squats) are great to add to your routine to improve your core strength without ever having to depend on your lower back.  

Have you noticed your knee, back or neck pain has gotten worse since lockdown? CLICK HERE to read why and how you can help yourself… at home FOR FREE.  


Sit-ups aren’t bad for you when they’re performed correctly, just make sure you have a strong enough core without your back coming off the floor until you progress.  

We’re here to help…  

If you’re in pain and would like to talk to us about getting some help, some specialist advice, or if you are looking for a diagnosis, remember we are always here to help you…. and we’re offering you the chance to have your first session with a physio for FREE (with a taster session).  

If you would like to get one of our limited taster session slots, please click here to complete our enquiry form or CALL us on 01429 866771.   

P.S. Do you know someone with aches in their back?   

Who do you know that is always telling you about their aches and pains? We would love to help them live a pain-free life too.    

That person could be someone who you live with, work with, or an extended friend or family member, who is maybe suffering with some kind of ache or pain that we can fix.  

Forward this blog post full of health tips on to them. Even better, if you refer someone to come and see us at the clinic, you’ll be entered into our ‘Referral for Rewards’ prize draw, to say a huge thank you. 

For more tips like this to help you or someone you know to ease low back pain, here’s a free guide to help you keep active with less back pain – just go to this website to get your free copy instantly: www.paulgoughphysio.com/back-pain

Or, click here:

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Paul Gough
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