TRADIES HEALTH MONTH: Top 5 exercises to prevent lower back pain at work

Working in the trades is an important job, but it sure can take a toll on a person’s body. While most tradies are good at taking care of their work tools, they’re not always quite as good at taking care of their most important tool: their bodies. But there are real benefits to doing so. 

For one, it can help to prevent injury and reduce time on the sidelines. The average time that a tradie has to take off work to recover from a serious injury is five to six weeks, and that’s a length of time that many tradies can’t afford to miss, especially self-employed tradies. As such, a little time and energy spent keeping your body in tip-top condition isn’t only good for your overall health: it’s also good for your income. 

According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association, less than a quarter of tradies warm up or stretch before beginning their day of manual labour. And that’s something that has to change, especially since it’s relatively easy to sustain an injury that results in lower back pain. “Because the back has so many structures, it’s no wonder it’s susceptible to pain and injury,” explains Jacqui Carr, APAM at Sydney Pelvic Clinic.

What are the types of lower back pain that tradies commonly experience?

There are two types of lower back pain that tradies commonly experience. The first is acute back pain. This pain comes on quickly and will last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The second is chronic back pain, which refers to any back pain that lasts for more than three months. 

These types of back pain are common among tradespeople because of the movements that they typically use on a day-to-day basis. Causes of acute or chronic back pain include:

  • Twisting under load.
  • Failing to adequately brace footing when lifting.
  • Leaving over or under a loan.
  • Being tight in the back or legs.
  • Ignoring earlier signs of inflammation or pain in the area.

According to a study from The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare it is estimated that 70–90% of people will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives.

OK, so we’ve determined that lower back pain is something that tradespeople need to keep in mind. The question is, is there anything that can be done to prevent a back injury? You bet there is. Below, Jacqui Carr runs through the best exercises to prevent lower back pain. If you’re a tradesperson or just want to keep your back in full working condition, consider making the following part of your routine.

Jacqui Carr APAM shares her top 5 exercises to prevent lower back pain at work.


Seated Twist

The seated twist stretch isn’t only an excellent way to prevent lower back pain; it’s a good all-around exercise that can have benefits that stretch beyond keeping your back loose and supple. It has also been shown to improve digestion, promote gut health, and help to combat stress. That’s a lot of goodness that comes from one exercise.

So how do you do it? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you and your back upright.
  • Bend your right knee, then place it on the other side of your left leg, next to your left thigh.
  • Fold your left leg to the right of your body, under your right glute.
  • Place your right arm behind you.
  • Hook your left arm on the inside of your right knee, and twist to the right.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Knees to Chest

The knees to chest stretch is one of the best lower back exercises. It helps to loosen up your lumbar spine muscles and can also be used as part of lower back pain treatment as it can relieve spinal nerve pressure. 

Here’s how you do it:

  • Lie flat on your back.
  • Pull your leg knee towards your chest.
  • Hold in position for around ten seconds.
  • Switch legs and repeat the exercise.
  • Repeat the exercise 3 times on each side.
  • Then bring both knees to your chest, and hold for ten seconds.

Cobra Pose

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, then you’ll probably be familiar with the cobra pose, as it’s one of the more popular movements. Make it part of your routine, and it’ll both warm up your back and help to strengthen your muscles.

Here’s the step-by-step guide:

  • Lie on your stomach and let the floor support your body.
  • Place your hands on the ground, in line with your shoulders.
  • Lift the upper half of your body away from the floor, curling your back and raising your head towards the ceiling.
  • Gently lower yourself down.
  • Repeat the motion three times.

Frog Pose

The frog pose is beneficial not only for your back but your body as a whole. It’s a deep stretch that can loosen up your entire body. And – let’s be honest – it’s a comical stretch too! It’s called frog pose for a reason.

You can do it by following the below steps:

  • Begin by placing your hands and knees on the floor.
  • Move your knees out to the side, as far as your flexibility permits.
  • Point your feet outwards, with the toes facing away from your body.
  • Open your feet a little wider than your knees.
  • You can make this a deeper stretch by moving your hips slightly back towards your heels; just be sure to keep your back in alignment with your neck.

Lumbar Rotation

Another excellent back stretch, the lumbar rotation exercise features heavily in yoga practice and is a great way to warm up before a day of manual labour or exercise.

  • Lie on your back with your knees arched and your arms spread in a T-shape.
  • Keeping your shoulders on the ground, move your knees to one side as far as you can go until you feel a stretch in your lower back.
  • Hold for 30 – 60 seconds and switch sides.
  • For an additional stretch, position your head facing the opposite direction of your knees.

Does warming up or stretching before work help prevent back pain or injury?

There’s nothing that’ll completely eliminate the chance of a back injury. But warming up and stretching will make it much less likely. As Harvard Medical School explains, “Weak back and abdominal muscles can cause or worsen low back pain. That’s why stretching and strengthening your back and abdominal muscles are important not only for treating low back pain, but also for helping to prevent a recurrence of the problem.”

Getting Help from Sydney Pelvic Clinic

Chronic lower back pain is common among tradies, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re experiencing pain in your back, but sure to get in touch with an experienced physiotherapist at Sydney Pelvic Clinic. Click here to reach out for a consultation.


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