More and more people are becoming aware of the fact that “rest only” methods might not be the optimal recovery tool. Re-engaging in sports and regular exercise through mobility and drill-like movements could be the answer.
There are some specific injuries that will require full rest. However, those are rare and if you suffered from those, you won’t really be able to do any kinds of exercises really. Back pain is not like that most of the time. It’s a different animal. It is usually very obnoxious, annoying, and chronic.
Back pain is something that almost everyone experiences in the course of their lifetime. Some people suffer more because of it, and others less, but everybody felt it at some point. Mostly because it is a sign of the times we live in today. Now, what does that mean?
Well, it’s our lifestyle, work habits, and so forth. We either stand a lot, sit a lot, lift heavy objects, do too many exercises that compromise spine health, push ourselves to the limit, and beyond …you name it. All of these can cause back pain. Heck, even people who don’t exercise at all can suffer from a herniated disc, not to mention gym-goers.
Regardless of what is causing the ills, there is a remedy for every type of back pain. Doing some simple, yet effective exercises are the real remedy for back pain. Let’s see what actually shows results.
The McGill three
The “McGill Big 3” is the therapeutic answer in the form of three exercises from the one and only Dr. Stuart McGill. He is one of the few who spent the majority of his career studying cases of back pain and searching for the optimal treatment. His renowned books arguably hold the status of the most in-depth research we have on back pain in the science of medicine.
The idea behind these exercises is to build a stiff core or, in other words, a strong foundation to carry the ‘building’ that is our body. Most of the people who train to improve their back muscles already have well-off back muscles! Once a strong core is achieved, the pain isn’t always gone. Or it might be gone for a brief period of time only to come back again. The worst, right? There are parts that still need attention.
The problem which many still fall victim to is the following – poor exercise choice. Namely, plenty of people still follow the wrong set of exercises that do strengthen the muscles, but not in the right way (for the people who want pain relief, at least). We need isometric movement, not isolation (which isn’t really possible when it comes to the core). By the words of Dr. Aaron Horschig, we need more of ‘abdominal bracing’
The exercises that we should consider are the following:
- Side plank
You start the curl-up by laying on the ground with your hands under your lower back. One leg should be bent at the knee and the other straight. You begin the exercise by raising your head upward, towards the ceiling. Hold this position for about ten seconds and then rest. The objective of this exercise is not to move your lower back at all.
Try to perform 3 sets of the curl up. First with 5 reps, second with three, and the last one with one rep. However, keep in mind that every rep should be held for about ten seconds. The break in between the repetitions should be between 20 and 30 seconds.
The side plank is an exercise you find often when searching for abdominal strengthening exercises. It is important for building the lateral parts of the abdomen, as well as activating the medial part of the gluteus, often neglected since it is a rarely used muscle.
Here’s how you do it. Start by lying on your side, knees bent with the elbow supporting the weight of your upper body. Your free hand should be on the opposite shoulder. Slowly raise your hips, using the knee and the arm for support.
Similar to the exercise above, aim for a 10-second hold along with the same number of sets/reps/resting periods.
The bird dog is easy to misuse if you forget about the mantra we’ve mentioned earlier and that is stiff core. The movements which you need to perform in this exercise require maximum conscious effort. But, the results kick in very quickly.
Position yourself on all fours, with your back in a neutral position. Push one hand forward while kicking backward with the opposite foot. If you start with your left hand/right foot variant, then the next set should be your right hand/left foot. Both your arm and your leg should be as extended as possible.
The same principle of timing goes for the bird-dog as well. Hold the erect position for about 10 seconds.
Having walking sessions is a MUST. Walking, running, or jogging, whatever you can afford. What matters is movement!
Periods of standing up every once in a while are crucial for eliminating back pain. People who sit a lot during the day especially need to implement this strategy. Why is this so important?
Every hour or so you should go for a walk or at least stand up and stretch your spine a bit just to get the blood flowing. The muscles in your lower back (the spine area) are of the slow-twitch type (also called “Type 1”). They support fatigue resistance for aerobic activities, stabilization, and postural control.
To wrap it up, let’s keep it simple. If you want to get rid of the tiring back pain issues you need to make certain changes in your habits. If you already have a workout regimen then you will need to extend it a bit further. If not, you’ll need to get one. Start with the exercises we’ve put on the list. Plus, the walking sessions.
Stick to the three workouts which Dr. McGill recommended. Perform them daily, even more than once if you can. They are the key to eliminating back pain for good. Most of the so-called cures out there get rid of the pain, which is only a symptom of an underlying problem. Pain being gone doesn’t always imply the problem being solved. Only by taking away the real cause will the pain completely vanish.
Go for walks when you’re taking a break during the workdays. Set an alarm for yourself if that is what you need to remind yourself. It is such an easy thing to do, yet it can help you out so much in the long run.
Thank you all for reading.
“Back Mechanic: The step by step McGill Method for fixing your back pain.” by Dr. Stuart McGill.