The power of the internet can’t be doubted.
It has the ability to spread knowledge across the globe in real time. You have a problem, google it, and more than likely you’ll find a solution.
So what’s wrong with that?
As a physiotherapist in Toronto, these are the questions I ask myself: How good is the information you’re getting? Is it valid? Reliable? Can it be trusted? Will it help you? Or will it hurt you?
This holds even more weight when dealing with physical issues such as injuries or illness. Plug in your signs and symptoms and within seconds, hundreds, if not thousands of webpages will be returned for your perusal.
It’s no different with relieving low back pain. Plug in those search terms and instantly you’ll have at your disposal more information than you could possibly even use.
When looking at low back pain, a good portion of the information that’s returned discusses strengthening your abs to fix your back problems. At times, this is similar to the information many people are given by their medical and fitness professionals: “Build a strong core to protect your back”.
Unfortunately, abdominal training is typically considered the foundation of core training. In reality, abdominal training is only a small part of the bigger picture. And in some cases, poorly designed or applied abdominal training can actually be what’s keeping you in pain.
As I’ve already talked about six pack abs and low back pain, I’ll just stick to giving you some ideas on how to keep your back strong, safe and healthy. Without further ado, here’s my list of the 3 worst core exercises for people with low back pain:
The abdominal crunch or sit-up: These staples of most back rehab programs should be eliminated because of the tremendous compressive loading forces that they create through the discs of the spine. There are better ways to train the core!
Dr. Stuart McGill, one of the foremost spine researchers in the world, has measured compressive forces of approximately 3300N (730 lbs) in the spine with these types of exercises.
This is equal to the amount of force noted by some government health agencies as the amount of force needed to cause injury!
Abdominal machines (crunch and twist machines): So if crunches or sit-ups can cause as much damage to your spine, imagine what happens when you take the same exercise, restrict movement at certain joints, isolate movement at others (in this case the lumbar spine) and then add a load.
Doesn’t sound very good, does it?
Now take that same flexion movement add a loaded rotation component on the twisting abdominal machines and you’re well on your way to getting yourself sent off to the disabled list.
In fact, we’ve dubbed these types of exercises “disc herniators” and inform our clients on continuing to do these only if they wish to help us finance our latest exotic car purchase.
Take home message: save your spine and stop flexing and/or twisting through your low back!
Back Extension Machines: As described by Dr. McGill, the repeated spine flexion/extension movements used by these devices create the same conditions that were necessary in his lab to produce disc herniations.
Why would you want to do the same to your back at home?
So there you have it…The 3 worst core exercises for people with low back pain. If you love your back, stop doing them.
Let me know your thoughts. Do you agree? Disagree? Or just not care?
Yours in movement.