The Best Exercise Machines for Lower Back Pain

  Reviewed
 by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.

I’m a fitness advocate with a holistic approach to health, wellness, and longevity. I’ve walked the walk since 2009 - using my personal development methods to unleash the fitness champ within you.

  Fact Checked
 by Rhealyn Celestial
Reviewed by Rhealyn Celestial

I’m a researcher, and I’m also a full-time mom. I spend my weekdays crafting thoughtful articles for small businesses, and my weekends with my son learning about the world together

Painful lower back? You are not alone. Most people will have at least one backache in their life. And let’s face it, aches and pains are a part of getting older. 

Ironically though, one of the best ways to manage and live with low back pain is through exercise. Yes, you read it right!  Read on to know how. Because in this article, we will share with you the best exercise machines for lower back pain.  

Working out helps a lot to soothe back pain. And there are various exercise machines out there that can help with our back pain.

Benefits of Exercise To Help Reduce Back Pain

Working out helps with back pain by activating the different back muscles. Light workouts also help flush away the lactic acid in the muscles. Your movement will become easier, and the pain is diminished when your back muscles are activated and lubricated.

Below are some exercises that can help take the edge off back pain:

Cardio Exercises

Doing cardio can also help with your bad back. Cardio not only helps our heart and lungs become stronger. They are also very important in maintaining bone density and muscular range of movement.

If you have lower back pain, go for low-impact cardio exercises like swimming or yoga.  If you love to run you can opt to use the treadmill instead of running on the pavement. You can also use the elliptical machine instead of the treadmill.  

Just make sure you warm up before starting your cardio exercises. And afterward, don’t forget to stretch after your exercise to keep the muscles loose.  

Weight / Resistance Training

Weights or using other forms of resistance training like body weight, machines, and fitness bands make the body stronger. Resistance bands may also improve the range of motion for specific muscle groups. 

Yoga

Yoga not only clears your mind but the poses strengthen your body and make it more flexible. If you are new to yoga, make sure you start with the easier poses before going to more difficult ones.

Best Exercise Machine for Lower Back Pain

There are a lot of choices in terms of exercise machines to help with back pain. We will discuss specific equipment for you and present you with the pros and cons of each.  

woman using exercise bike in the gym

Treadmills

Let us start with everyone’s go-to equipment – the treadmill. Treadmills are very popular because they are easy to use.

They come with different features like a built-in heart rate monitor, speakers for your music, and preset workout programs. These make the treadmill a one-touch operation machine for users.  

You can use treadmills in an outdoor or indoor setting. It can also be very convenient because it can be available for use all year round. 

Treadmills are excellent for people with lower back pain because it is not as harsh as running on pavement.  People may find running on pavements hard. It can put a strain on the legs, knees, and lower back. The treadmill’s mat is usually made of rubber. The mat softens the impact on your body when you are running.

Treadmills also come with handlebars which you can use for support. 

Treadmills are in the range of $600 to $1,500, and some fancier ones could cost even more.  This may be too expensive for some but think of it as an investment.  

Some would also say that treadmills are boring.  Sure, nothing beats outdoor running or walking. But when you have a bad back, you would want to run on a more forgiving surface. Also, you can always turn the TV on and watch a movie while on the treadmill. 

Among the different brands in the market, we highly recommend the NordicTrack T Series Treadmill and the XTERRA Fitness TRX4500 Treadmill.

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Both are excellent options.  For those on the heavier side, the XTERRA TRX4500 is a good one which provides 350 lb capacity. 

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Find our complete listing of the recommended treadmill for a heavy person in this section.

Elliptical trainers

An elliptical is also good exercise equipment for your back.  Some would say ellipticals are boring and monotonous. And yes, they are less impactful than treadmills. But they still provide a great cardio workout.  

Ellipticals also come with poles as handles. These engages the upper body during the exercise. They are also friendly to the knees, back, and hips. So, if you are experiencing lower back pains but feel the urge to work out, then the elliptical is your go-to. 

Prices for a mid-level elliptical can range from $200 to $1,000. If you want more features and better quality equipment, then there are pricier ones that you can consider in the market. 

There are two standout products available in the market today. Both are great options if you are considering elliptical trainers for your workout. These are the Sunny Health & Fitness Machine, and the Schwinn Fitness 470 Elliptical. 

The Sunny Health Elliptical Machine comes with an optional and exclusive SunnyFit App. The app allows connection to a mobile device that can track performance metrics in real-time.

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Its features include magnetic resistance that offers eight different levels of workout difficulty, it also allows forward and backward strides to work out both the quadriceps and hamstrings, and glutes. 

The Schwinn Fitness 470 Elliptical is another excellent option with more features than the Sunny Health unit.

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It also comes with blue tooth, an app-based performance tracking, as well a motorized adjustable ramp, and 25 resistance levels. The unit is made of steel. It ensures its durability and maximizes the lifespan of the machine.

Check this detailed review of our recommended mini ellipticals.

Exercise bikes

Stationary bikes are another workout option for people with lower back pain. It is also a low-impact workout like the treadmill and elliptical. It is more friendly to your back compared to a higher-impact workout like running. 

Some may say that the machine focuses too much on your legs or lower limb. However, stationary bikes still deliver great benefits. You can burn calories, sweat buckets, and lose weight while getting your heart and lungs healthy at the same time. 

Price points range from $100 to $2,000, depending on quality, durability, make, and material. The pricier ones can even go up to $5,000.

The Schwinn Upright Bike Series and Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike are two popular options for this segment. And both come with features that will give you a fun and challenging workout. 

The Schwinn Upright Bike Series features an adjustable seating position and padded handlebars for comfort.

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It also comes with an oversized pedal with straps that allows for multiple users. It also has Bluetooth connectivity and app-based tracking for performance metrics. And lastly, it has 25 different levels to challenge you more the longer you use the machine. 

The Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike, on the other hand, is configured in a step-through design. This design will help with mobility.

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You will not hunch forward on the handlebars like the Schwinn Upright bike. Instead, you can sit more comfortably in a relaxed position. This places less stress on the back and knees. The machine comes with eight resistance levels that make it suitable for beginners and workout veterans alike. 

Visit our complete listing of recommended exercise bikes if you have bad knees.

Vertical Climbers

Climbing machines have been making themselves known in the fitness world over the last few years.  It is very low impact and friendly to your back. You can mimic climbing up and down a flight of stairs, and work on your legs, arms, and glutes. 

Some may find the vertical climbers as low impact and boring. But these machines provide a complete body workout and can burn through 500 calories on a one-hour workout at high intensity. That’s double the calories burned compared to a treadmill!  How’s that for bang for the buck? 

It can also be a space-saver. It is relatively not as bulky and you can place it in any corner of your house.

If you are in the market for a vertical climber you should check out the MaxiClimber Vertical Climber and the Sportsroyals Vertical Climber Exercise Machine.  

The MaxiClimber Vertical Climber combines both cardio and resistance training. It also comes with the MaxiClimber Fitness App free for every purchase.

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The Sportsroyal unit price point gets you a climbing machine for a total body workout.

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It is a good cardio machine with different resistance levels to tone your muscles. The machine is made of steel for a sturdy and durable construction. This ensures long service life. 

Causes of Back Pain

Let us look at the most common causes of back pain.

To be clear, when we say back pain, we are referring to chronic back pain. The one that is a recurring and persistent pain experienced by most adults. Understanding what causes lower back pain will help us address the problem and prevent future injuries. 

An unhealthy lifestyle can also be the cause for lower back pain. The following are the main reasons why people have chronic back pains. 

woman in pain holding lower back

High Body Mass Index (BMI)

People who are overweight and have above normal body mass index (BMI) are more prone to suffer lower back pain compared to those who are within their healthy ranges.  The higher you are from your prescribed BMI, the higher your risk of suffering chronic lower back pain. 

Sitting for Most of the Day

Sitting all day is also a major cause, especially if your sitting posture is bad.  The advancement of technology had pros and cons. And one result was us working in an office all day, where all we do is sit for prolonged periods.  

The human body was designed to be active. It is very strong and resilient, and especially so with proper care. Sitting on that office chair or couch all day puts tremendous pressure on the lower back. Not to mention very low activity throughout the day. This is also one reason why we gain weight.  

 An ergonomic work chair with adequate lumbar support can also help prevent lower back pain.  Make sure you get up and stretch often during the day to prevent this.   Also, why not go for a short walk or run after a long day at the office. Make sure to add in some stretching while out on a walk. 

Unhealthy Diet

 An unhealthy diet is another cause why we have low back pain. People with low calcium and vitamin D in their diet are more likely to lose bone mass. This results in a weak support structure.  So, make sure your diet contains calcium-rich sources.

Go get some sun, too! Sun exposure will help your skin with calcium absorption. The best time for sun exposure is between 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

Exercising in general makes our muscles and bones stronger.  However, some common mistakes can cause low back pain, so make sure you avoid them. 

man with big belly holding plate with burger

Little or No Warm-Up Before a Workout

Warming up prepares the body for real exercise. A proper warm-up session should bring the heart rate to optimum levels, raise core temperature, and loosen and lubricate working muscles.  

As we grow older, muscles tend to warm up longer. So, keep that in mind for folks who are not that young.  Also, a dynamic stretching routine should prepare you for the workout. 

Too Much Too Soon

Who wouldn’t want to show off and lift that 250-pound bench press for a couple of reps?  Well, don’t be in a hurry!  Too much too soon is one of the watch-outs when working out. And it may hurt you more than help you.  

So, make sure that the weight you lift is progressive and that you build enough strength over time to hit your goal.  Trust me, you will get there with enough time and patience. 

Improper Form During Exercise

This one should be up there in terms of importance. A badly executed squat or deadlift will kill your back. And I am speaking from experience.  

I hurt my lower back a few years ago when I indiscriminately lifted a 50lb weighted barbell. You place your body at risk of injury when you do not focus on the proper form when lifting. So, make sure you get instruction and guidance before exercising, especially when weight lifting. 

Bad Workout Program

A good workout program should address your goal. Tailor it to your individual experience and capacity. That said, it is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all workout program.

Properly discuss and plan your program with a certified fitness trainer. Include a combination of cardio and non-cardio exercises, as well as planned rest days to give your body a break.  

Choosing the Best Machine for You 

Choosing the best exercise machine to help with back pain is a subjective decision. Our criteria may differ based on targets, preferences, and capabilities.  

exercise equipment in a gym

While my personal preference is the treadmill because I love to run, you may choose the vertical climber because of the challenging workout that it offers. Or someone with severe back pain may choose the exercise bikes over others because it provides the least stress to the lower back. 

If these are all available in the gym that you go to, try out each one and see what will fit you best. If you have the extra cash to get more than one kind of machine, then it would be even better because of the benefits of cross-training. 

These machines provide different workouts and challenge the body in different ways so it’s good to try different machines. 

Read More To Find Out More:

Which Is Better for Back Pain, Treadmill or Elliptical?

I would go for the treadmill because your movements when working out will be more natural to the body. It is also more comfortable for you to walk or run because the treadmill mat is relatively wider than the elliptical’s stepper.  

What Exercises Should I Avoid When I Have Lower Back Pain?

Don’t do intense cardio exercises if you have a bad back.  Avoid high-impact exercises that involve a lot of movement that put too much strain on the joints and back. These would be running or jogging on pavements, jumping, and plyometrics. 

Instead of high-impact exercises, do lower-impact workouts like walking, stepping, yoga, and other workouts that do not involve jarring your joints too much. 

Is an Elliptical Machine Good for Lower Back Pain?

Yes, an elliptical machine is good for lower back pain. It provides lesser stress to your joints while providing great cardio exercise for you. 

Final Thoughts

The bottom line, you can still exercise even if you have a bad back. Just be mindful in choosing the exercise equipment you will use, and your form and posture when exercising. 

Your starting point is in knowing your goals, preference, and capability. Once you have that identified, look next at the low-impact exercise machines that you can use, such as treadmills, ellipticals, exercise bikes, and vertical climbers. Compare the machines and see what will fit you best.

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