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Low back stretching. Helpful or harmful?



Stretching. We are told to do it on a daily basis. We have been taught that it’s good for the body and, in particular, a flexible spine will help eliminate low back pain.
What if stretching your low back is actually doing more harm than good, especially if you already have low back pain?
I recently got the opportunity to interview Dr. Stuart McGill, aka Dr. Spine, about stretching and what his research is saying about the topic.
He’s been featured in the New York Times, Maclean’s magazine, and has been quoted and interviewed for hundreds of newspapers, magazines, blogs and podcasts around the world.
When asked about stretching and the low back, he explains that a mobile back is not necessarily a good thing. In fact, statistically those with a greater range of motion in the back actually have a greater risk of low back pain.
You see, to bear load the spine needs stability and not always mobility. The muscles of the spine, he says, generally function to stop movement, while the muscles around the hips, legs, arms and shoulders create motion.
If the spine isn’t stable, the limb muscles loose efficiency to create arm and leg movement at the hips and shoulders.
From a spine disc perspective, a flexible disc is more easily damaged when high loads are applied to it. In contrast, discs must be toughened and stiffened to bear high load. A powerlifter must develop a stiffer spine.
Low back stretching. Helpful or harmful? – Living – Delta Optimist

I agree with Dr. McGill in that stretching for the low back is not as important as stabilizing the low back with exercise. If you suffer from low back pain and haven’t been helped with low back stretches, call today to schedule an evaluation as I utilize exercise as a significant component of treatment when appropriate.

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