Lower Back Pain Exercises (The Big 3)

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AJ here, with Stronglife Physiotherapy. Sir Isaac Newton once said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” One of the giants in the physical therapy profession when it comes to low back pain is Dr. Stuart Mc. Gill. He’s fixed the backs of professional fighters, olympians and other elite athletes allowing them to return to high level competition. He has what he calls the big 3 exercises for spinal stabilization and in this video we’re going to show you how they’re done. Dr.

Rather than just masking the pain and hoping it doesn’t happen again (which it will) you can grab our free audiobook on outwitting the back pain industry and getting on the road to recovery and thank me later. As someone who has been stuck on the coach, the floor and the road in the middle of Vietnam without warning I know how bad it can get. The sooner you deal with it, the better.

Mc. Gill emphasizes that the muscles of the spine are designed for stabilization or rather, to prevent too much motion from occurring. Exercises and activities that have a lot of motion through the spine like full situps can cause excessive strain and lead to potential injury He also makes the point that endurance is especially important in these muscle since they are postural muscles, which means they are required to stay activated for long periods of time through out the day Get on your hands and knees. Find your neutral position by fully extending the spine then fully flexing the spine. Your neutral position should be somewhere in the middle but still have a slight curve in the low back Stiffen your core, lift your opposite arm and leg and hold for 10 seconds. bring the arm and leg down without putting any weight on them. Then raise them again and repeat 5 10 times on each side For added difficulty form circles or squares with your arm and leg.

Lie down flat on your back One leg straight and the other bent. Place your hands under the small of your back for lumbar support. Lift your head and shoulders slightly Hold this position for 10 seconds, repeat 5 10 times. Get on your side with your top foot in front. And supporting yourself on your elbow You can place the top hand on the opposite deltoid to help support the shoulder. Lift your hips to straighten your body, keep your core stiff and your back and your hips straight Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 5 10 times. Work up to a minute long hold.

If this position is too difficult or painful, it can be performed from your knees instead of from your feet. But you’ll want to eventually work up to performing it from your feet. These are 3 great exercises to help improve your ability to stabilize your spine. If you have low back pain Do them 2 3 times a day Once your pain is gone, do them 2 3 times per week as a maintenance program to prevent the pain from returning. Thanks for watching! Don’t forget to subscribe and give a thumbs up if you like this video. Have a great day! And stay strong!..


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  • My L5 & S1 disc are *herniated and a tear in my hip labrum (anterosuperior). I bought “Back Mechanics” by Stuart Mcgill for my back, but now I need to know what to do for my hip, that wont contradict any progress for my back. Can you make a video for someone in my position or suggest some exercises I could do or books I could read to help me?

  • I have shoulder issues (dislocation in one and ‘frozen shoulder’ tendinitis in the other) so I find putting my hands under my lower back for the curlup is not comfortable. I’ve improvised a cushion under my lumbar region of roughly finger thickness. Does this sound like an acceptable modification?

  • Its not a modified curl up, its lifting the head neck shoulders as a unit from the lower abdomen. This is the error all patients make. McGill specifically tells us not to curl which engages vertebral segment and tensions the disc material.

  • Hello, I don’t want to assume so my question is, while doing the mguill curl up, are you supposed to flex/brace your core? Do it prior to the lift or once you’ve curled up ? And also is it a bad idea to flatten your back while doing this, I’ve tried doing this and I find it difficult to get a good core brace ?

  • I found this presentation first class; it was clearly explained and very well demonstrated.I hope that it will help my golf swing too,

  • I suffer lower back pain from time to time. At the beginning I would suffer for a week at least until naturally healed. Since I’ve started doing this exercises I can tell that pain does not last longer than a day even at times just few hours. Repeat them twice or three times during the day and voila!

  • How often each week should this be done? 3 times per day seems excessive. You’d never do any exercise 3 times per day.