Over the years, research has clearly shown that exercise and stabilization of the lower back are key to making a full recovery from back pain. Stu McGill, a leader in this field of research has consistently guided our thinking in terms of specific exercises that optimally stabilize the spine, while minimizing the amount of stress and strain on its structures (disc, joint, ligament etc.).
An article published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation further clarifies our knowledge when it comes to stabilizing exercises for the low back. This study focuses on the three main exercises recommended for back stabilization, and aims to help guide clinicians in determining how to progress patients through these exercises.
Curl Up: This classic curl-up involves keeping one leg straight, one leg bent, both hands under the back and curling the shoulder blades up off the ground. Progressions can involve pre-bracing, adding in arm movements (dead-bugs), and deep breathing during the exercise.
Side Bridge: This involves lying on your side with our elbow and knee on the floor, while lifting the hips up off the ground and holding. Progressions can involve using feet instead of knees as lower balance point and moving arm positions.
Bird Dog: This involves starting on all fours with hips and shoulders at a 90 degree angle. Progressions can involve raising one arm, one leg, opposite arm and leg together, and movements of the limbs while elevated.
These three simple exercises are easy for clinician’s to prescribe, and can be done safely by a patient with little or no supervision. Its important for us to take the time to teach these exercises properly, so patients can attain the improvements they need with minimal stress on their spine.