Five Simple Tips to Relieve Back Pain

An expert in the spine says that the most common recommendations for avoiding this type of pain do not work, and reveals the ones that do work.Back pain is one of the most frequent among the adult population and because of this many spend a fortune on treatments. It is estimated that between 80 and 90 percent have suffered at some point and is the leading cause of disability in the world. In his book The Mechanic of the Back, Stuart McGill, professor of biomechanics of the spine at the University of Waterloo, Canada, says that the main cause of the increase in cases is the current rhythm of life. “We were not created to sit in front of computers for long periods,” the expert told WEEK.

But many doctors are not well informed on how to properly treat these problems. He adds that each case is different and deserves a personalized solution, but the current health system only offers appointments of 10 to 15 minutes and in that time is very difficult for patients to receive a correct diagnosis. The expert explains that there are two types of vertebral columns: those that bend and flex like the branches of a willow, which allow easy and painless stretching exercises, yoga or pilates. The others are thicker and less flexible, like those of an oak, and their owners are more likely to suffer from back pain. Excessive push-ups, twists, and overloads for the spine, such as gym routines, can be detrimental to them.

Given this situation, based on his more than 400 scientific investigations McGill created his own method, widely described in his recent book. Here are five basic rules and three types of mandatory exercises to maintain a healthy back.

Five Simple Tips to Relieve Back Pain

1. Pilates and yoga do not heal

Not all types of physical training fit every skeleton. In his research, McGill has found no solid evidence that doing yoga and pilates is for everyone. “A good instructor will advise each student individually, but these practices will not be the ideal cure for back pain,” says McGill.

2. Walking fast serves

The basic exercise to eliminate any back, lumbar or cervical pain is to walk daily. And in doing so the pain is quickly relieved as “with each step the legs rise and balance in such a way that they produce smooth muscle contractions. This prevents the pelvis from sinking and reduces the load on the spine, “says the author. If the person feels pain in this area, he should gradually increase the rhythm until he relieves.

3. Avoid doing sit-ups

McGill’s findings show that statistically there is a greater likelihood of developing a back problem if the spine is subjected to exercises that put the muscles of the abdomen to work. It is also opposed to the so-called pilates roll-up, as it is an “exaggerated movement that puts an additional burden on the discs of the vertebrae.”

4. Run

Although running has a bad reputation for joints and spine, McGill ensures that it is ideal for having a healthy back in the long run. According to several studies done with high-performance athletes, there is a lower incidence of back pain in athletes than in football players or athletes because running involves a forward movement “without having to bend, stretch or contort too much.”

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5. Eye with Stretches

Many coaches insist on stretching programs to maintain flexibility and mobility in the spine. However, McGill says these routines provide only temporary relief, damage the discs and cause stronger pain in the long run. That is why it is recommended to avoid any stretching that involves pulling the knees up or flexing the spine. Ideally, keep it in a neutral position and never force it.

The three key exercises

These daily practices are mandatory for treating back pains.

Modified ‘Curl-up’

Lie on the floor with the palms down below the lower back, raise your elbows slightly so they do not touch the floor and support the abs. Then straighten the neck and shoulders of the floor without using hands. Stay there and count from 8 to 10 and then lower the column. Start with 5 reps, rest for 30 seconds, then 3, rest another 30 seconds, and end with one repetition.

Half iron

Lie on your right side on the floor. Bend your knees and hips and hold your right forearm on the floor under your shoulder. Your body should be in a straight line from the knees to the head, but your knees should remain on the floor. Then hold your body and press up with your hips until you can support your body with your elbow and knees, while your left hand rests on the hip. Hold for 10 seconds breathing normally and then try 3 or 4 repetitions on one side and then switch to the other.


Take the quadruped position with your hands under your shoulders and simultaneously lift the right arm, but not higher than the shoulder, and the left leg, but not beyond the height of the hips and vice versa. Try to keep the limbs parallel to the floor for 6 to 8 seconds. If that is too much for your back, start by lifting just one leg. Then do the test of staying on each side with 4 sets of 10 seconds.

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