Unfortunately, we’ve all acted on bad advice when we thought it was good advice. This is a very common scenario when it comes to the back. Seems like we’ve all done sit up challenges in school, bent forward to stretch our hamstrings, or tried to lengthen our hammies by sitting and folding forward. If you need some visuals on this, go-to @denver_chiropractor Instagram page. Let me give you some comfort and tell you, “it’s not your fault”. Back pain can be complicated in its generation and thus difficult to treat.

If you’ve landed in my office as a patient, somewhere along your existence you’ve injured something in your back. Identifying how you injured your back can be quite difficult and some injuries can sneak up on you like a ninja. Here’s a quick list of potential factors contributing to the seemingly non traumatic back that is causing you pain.

  • Congenital abnormal anatomy. Joints can be orientated the wrong way, extra vertebra can form or be absent, etc.
  • Your job! Poor ergonomics at work or using a home office is a biggie for those ninja injuries. Repetitive bending, extending, or a combination of lifting and twisting. Awkward and prolonged movements throughout your day.
  • Trauma! Car accidents, trips and falls, etc.
  • Too much phone time. Our phones practically hold us hostage and they put us in positions that are no Buenos for the spine.

Like most people, they will try and fix their back themselves. After-all, someone once said, “You are your own best doctor”. Whether that be true or not, some peoples home remedies are actually making the problem worse. I’ve focused on these three exercises, because most people that present to my office seem to be doing a combination of them. Stretching your hammies may provide a temporary pain reduction and thus make you feel like you are doing the correct stretch for your back. As time goes on, and with careful scrutiny, you’ll find that the aforementioned stretches and sit ups are making you worse.

Dr. Stuart McGill is one of the biggest advocates of not stretching or strengthening your back in this fashion. This is due to the large amounts of compression being generated in the lumbar spine that exceed the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The large amounts of compression generated in combination of repeated compression have been shown to increase back disorders (Axler and McGill, 1997). This research showed about 730 lb being exerted on the spine with the sit up, a dangerous amount of force when combined with repetition.

This is particularly dangerous due to the anatomy of the disc. The disc is essentially a large ligament made up of collagen that alternate their orientation with each layer. This helps multi-directional stability. The center of the disc is made up a gel like substance primarily composed of water and different types collagen. In the low back, the front of the disc is taller than the back and the nucleus is slight closer to the back side of the disc. Pretend your pushing down on a water bed. The water is pushed to the other side of the bed and expanding that areas volume. This is similar to what happens to a disc which over time can be damaged with these exercises.

These are general recommendations and its best to ask questions to your doctor about which exercises you should do for back pain. After all, the big question is why do you have back pain to begin with. Please feel free to email me your questions.

Author: Dr. Trent Artichoker


Denver Chiropractic, LLC
3890 Federal Blvd Unit 1
Denver, CO 80211