In addition to manual therapies and other treatments provided in a chiropractic office, patients with chronic low back pain are often advised to exercise—specifically the core muscles—as part of the recovery process. Is there a protocol that’s best for engaging the core muscles?
In 2018, researchers recruited 34 chronic low back pain patients and assigned them to one of two treatment groups: conventional physiotherapy lumbar exercises or McGill stabilization exercises. The conventional physiotherapy approach included the following exercises: single and double knee to chest, prone lying with pillow with one leg sliding, cycling in the supine position, and bridging exercises. The patients in the McGill stabilization exercise group performed spine-sparing crunches, side bridges, front planks, and bird dogs. Participants in each group exercised three times a week for six weeks. At the conclusion of treatment, each patient completed assessments to measure any improvements with respect to low back-related pain, disability, and range of motion.
The results revealed that the participants in the McGill stabilization group experienced greater improvement in all three domains (pain, disability, and range of motion), suggesting that this approach may be of greater benefit to the chronic low back pain patient. Let’s take a look how each of these exercises are performed:
- Spine-sparing crunch: Lay on your back with right leg straight and the left knee bent with the left foot planted next to the right knee. Place your hands below the lumbar spine (in the gap between the floor and lower back). Lift the head and chest just off the floor/bed and tighten the abdominals. Hold for 3-10 seconds for 3-10 reps and then switch sides. Do three sets.
- Side-Bridge: Lay on your right side and place your right elbow directly under the right shoulder (use a pad under the elbow for comfort) and raise your pelvis up off the floor. Hold for 3-10 seconds for 3-10 reps and then switch sides. Do three sets.
- Front-Plank: Lay on your stomach resting your forearms under your chest and raise your pelvis up (a push-up-like position) tightening the core muscles. Hold for 3-10 seconds for 3-10 reps. Do three sets.
- Bird Dogs: Kneel on all fours (hands and knees/legs) and raise and straighten out the right arm and left leg, bracing your abdominal muscles. Hold for 3-10 seconds for 3-10 reps and then switch sides. Do three sets.
In the end, your doctor of chiropractic knows your specific case and can tailor an exercise protocol to help you get the best possible results, not only to assist in the recovery process but also reduce the risk for recurrence.