Linda Melone
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7 Best and worst exercises for an achy back

Pop quiz! Guess what I did to celebrate my birthday this week:

  1. Wrestled an alligator live on national TV
  2. Draped myself in bubble wrap and rolled down a hill
  3. Got X-rays of my spine at the local hospital

I think we know the answer. Clearly, alligator wrestling and rolling down hills sounding like human popcorn have been off my bucket list for years now.

The X-Rays weren’t my choice, but my petition to declare January 17a national holiday has not yet been accepted by anyone other than myself.

So there I sat, along with a roomful of other people limping around with a variety of casts and bandages.

Others did not appear to have anything overtly wrong with them. This worried me.

Did they have some weird radioactive parasite they brought back from some far-away country that would soon turn the U.S. into a scene from the movie, Outbreak?

Once discovered, would I be quarantined here in this waiting room full of strangers, with armed guards wearing skull and cross bone arm patches, forbidden to leave until a cure was found?

Thankfully, this scenario only came to life in my own mind, where many scary things come and go.

By now you may be wondering:

  • Why was Linda getting X-Rays, since she’s such a young thing?
  • With thoughts like hers, why is she allowed to leave the house unsupervised?
  • Are we seriously in danger of an outbreak of radioactive foreign cooties of global proportions? And, if so, will The Rock be able to save us?

Sadly, I am only qualified to answer #1.

The other questions must be left to the proper authorities.

About the X-Rays. I’ve mentioned in prior posts I was diagnosed with osteoporosis six years ago.

Since then I’ve been on medications, extra vitamin D and calcium, which has helped, but a recent bone scan revealed I still have a spine full of more holes than a Steven Seagal movie plot.

My primary care doctor sent me to an osteoporosis specialist. That’s where the fun began.

I instantly liked Dr. Feldman. He’s a young doctor accustomed to working with 85-year olds, so he seemed to find me a welcome relief as he didn’t need to shout for me to hear him.

He went through my entire medical history, including my very long episode of anorexia where my body rewarded me by never fully laying down its normal amount of bone. Therein lies the bone problem.

In his words, not only did I lose bone after menopause (which happens due to estrogen drop), but my bone never actually reached its full strength before menopause began chipping away at it at age 49.


The medication I’m on for anxiety “is not helping matters,” he said. “In fact, if you asked me to name one medication most destructive to bone, I’d say it’s yours (Luvox).”

Just my luck that the one medicine that literally saved my life was also destined to completely wreck me.

I told him I’d rather break a leg than go through the torture of daily panic attacks again (I was this close — my fingers are pressed together here – from becoming agoraphobic, which I’ve also discussed in prior post HERE).

He reassured me we’d work with it, although he noted “we may need to get aggressive with therapy.” That’s fine with me, but do not take away the one medicine that literally gave me back my life.

So aggressive treatment it will be.

His treatment plan for me involves X-Rays to determine whether I have tiny fractures anywhere on my spine (as of this writing I’m still waiting for a diagnosis), which he said do not always cause pain, since I do not have back pain.

Then I start a regimen of higher levels of vitamin D and a different type of calcium (Citracal) for two months, after which a blood test will determine if my levels of D are normal.

The worst part? Afterwards I take a 24-hour urine test, which involves collecting my urine — all of it — for 24 hours.

Considering the number of trips I make to the bathroom each day I may as well tether myself to the porcelain throne. (Stay tuned for that blog post, as it will likely be as fun as a colonoscopy prep.)

After this point we’ll discuss my drug options, since my case is severe enough that I will need to go back on something in addition to over-the-counter supplements.

My biggest question for him: Do I need to change my current workout plan? I verbally ran through my routine with him and he was fine with it if I use “perfect form.” Which I do, or course.

This leads me (yes, finally!) to the gist of this post, the best and worst exercises for an achy back, whether or not you have osteoporosis. (Obviously, ask your doctor if you have any medical issues at all before trying them.)

This compilation results from many interviews and articles written on the topic with tips from many experts in the field.

Let’s start with the worst…


Each of these either puts excess strain on the spine or may trigger pain if you’re susceptible.

  • Sit-ups and regular crunches
  • Leg lifts
  • Leg press machine
  • Seated overhead presses
  • Supermans
  • Incline treadmill


These alternative exercises work similar muscles as the above, but with a lower risk to your back.


Walking on flat terrain

Hamstring stretches

Lateral raises

Reverse crunches (lower ab)

Bird dog

Hip bridges


Do you have back pain? Let me know in the comments below, along with any exercises you find helpful… or ones you need to skip.

Other posts you may enjoy:

How to get results when you can’t do your usual workout

The most important thing I learned in 58 years on this planet

Best of the best exercises for abs, arms and legs for women over 50

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please forward it along to your other Ageless friends. I’d be forever grateful!

Your Ageless Body Coach,



About the Author Linda Melone

Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.

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Leave a Comment:

Patricia Scott says

Linda Loved this post! I am so sorry you are having your health issues though. I never thought my having anorexia in my youth would show up to impact my health now.
I needed these suggestions as the new class I just started is hard and I was so sore afterwards. I think I will be fine in it if I alter the exercises as you have in your article. I do not normally have any discomfort in my lower back but I did after this new class. (Course I did do this class and then a Kettle Bells class.) Keep us posted on your test results.

    Linda Melone says

    Thanks, Pat! Fortunately, the X-ray shows no fractures. So YA! Still not a done deal. And yes, things we do in our youth can greatly impact us later in life. Unfortunately, most people don’t see the consequences when they’re actually at that age. I didn’t.

Pam says

I periodically suffer from sciatica. Of course, when it’s in full force, there is no exercise that I can do that isn’t painful. Once I’m able to do exercises, besides the ones you mentioned, I also the side leg lifts, as well as yoga. Love downward dog and just simply bending over and attempting to touch my toes can provide a lot of relief.

    Linda Melone says

    Sciatica totally stinks! I’ve worked with several clients who suffered from it. I’m glad you found relief with yoga. A client of mine used to also lie over a fitness ball, which took the pressure off that nerve, too.

Kathy says

It was wonderful to read this post this morning. I recently was diagnosed with osteoporosis after a fracture and am struggling with “the right workout moves” thank you!

    Linda Melone says

    Hi Kathy! Thank you. I’m sorry to hear you also have osteoporosis, it’s so common after menopause. One thing I forgot to mention my doctor said, is you would likely not ever have a problem unless you fall and break a bone. Strength training is KEY to prevent falling. And I will continue to write on this topic since I had so much trouble finding expert advice. You’ll be fine! 🙂

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