The Solution Part 2: Spinal Exercise

I really regret that workout. –No One Ever

When you use your back and neck incorrectly, or Something Bad Happens To You, a Buckling Point is created, and muscles that were once your spine’s biggest protector become its greatest threat. As a chiropractor Little Falls MN I know that has to change to get out of pain. You must get your muscles on your side once again. Here’s how.

The Deep, Spinal Stabilizers

Once the Tipping Point has been crossed, life becomes difficult for the deep Stabilizers. At first, because of inhibition, their reaction time is slowed and their coordination begins to wane. Eventually, some of them stop being used completely. This lack of use turns into weakness. Weakness brings destruction. After a while, the muscles and the parts of the brain that control them begin to die off, which is not a pretty picture.

What do you do about it? Turn lack-of-use into lots-of-use by forcing the deep Stabilizers to become active. This turns weakness into strength, destruction into reconstruction, and your dead muscles will be raised to life. The use of these muscles will force your brain to grow new neurons, reestablishing its control. As a chiropractor Little Falls MN we even see coordination will be restored. Reaction time will improve. You’ll feel stronger, move better, have more balance, and most importantly, have less pain.

What’s the best way to get this done? Through spinal exercises and seeing a chiropractor Little Falls MN. And like with spinal adjusting, the research and data on exercise relieving back and neck pain is so extensive that it’s almost mind numbing. Here, again, are highlights.

Research Highlights

In 1992, some 103 low-back pain sufferers were randomly assigned into a carefully graded exercise program. Others in the group were given “the usual” care (ice and rest). All were blue-collar workers on sick leave for disability because of their low back pain. This study found that the people who received exercise training returned to work faster than those who did not. (22) Duh! Of course people who were given the means to directly address one of the components of the Vicious Cycle got better. Study (23), after study (24), after study (25), after study (26), after study (27) proves this. Another study was done in 2010 that involved over 6,000 people that showed the same thing. (28) Yep, the science is abundantly clear that if you’re suffering from back and neck pain, you need to be exercising your deep Stabilizers.


Interestingly, spinal exercises not only relieve pain but also stop and reverse weakness, destruction, and the muscle death that happens to them in the Vicious Cycle. Case in point: An Australian study that showed if low back pain patients perform exercises, the atrophy of a deep Stabilizer (called the Multifidus) was prevented. (29)

Why does exercising the spinal Stabilizers work so consistently well? It’s simple. When you keep the deep Stabilizers strong they do their job at holding the joints together and protecting them. You don’t have to be a genius to understand that. So if you’re suffering from back and/or neck pain and not doing spinal exercises, you’re missing a big part of what it takes to be pain-free.

Where can you find how to exercise your deep, spine-stabilizing muscles? Well call this chiropractor Little Falls MN to find out!

Once again, for some reason beyond me, more doctors and chiropractor Little Falls MN haven’t figured this out so you may have to do some work in order to find a good back-and-neck rehab program. This is not an all-inclusive list by any means, but doctors of chiropractic, physical therapists, and occupational therapists are going to be your best bet. The key is to know what you’re seeking. If the typical program of the person you’re seeing is a handful of “one-size-fits-all” sessions, and then you’re sent home with a grainy printout of exercises straight out of the 1980s, run for the hills.

For Best Results, Use as Directed:

* Be picky! Not all exercises are created equal. If you want to improve your heart health, you would do cardiovascular exercise like jogging. If you wanted to build whole-body strength, you would focus on weight lifting. If you wanted to work on your stability, you would do balance-reinforcing exercises. You see, different types of exercise give different results. When it comes to relieving your back and neck pain, the exercises you perform need to strengthen the deep spinal Stabilizers which can only be done through certain exercises. Walking, jogging, staying active, and lifting weights are all good things to do for your health, but they aren’t the right kind of exercise to get your back and neck out of the Vicious Cycle. That is why we encourage you going to a chiropractor Little Falls MN. 

* Specificity is key. The exercises need to be done in a very specific manner. The truth is your back and neck can be exercised in a variety of ways, but, based on your pain level, body type, and progression through the Vicious Cycle, only the right way for you will get your pain gone. The “one-exercise-fits-all” approach to getting the spine pain-free is hogwash. In fact, one study showed that the more specific the exercises are, the better the results. (30) You might think this is common sense, but you’d be surprised how many physical medicine professionals seem to have forgotten about this.

* Coaching is a must. The farther down your spine the Vicious Cycle has gotten, the harder it’s going to be to actually turn on the deep Stabilizers because the nerves controlling them get damaged, making the brain/muscle connection weak. On top of that, the superficial Movers are hyperactivity trying to take over the Stabilizer’s job. This makes it impossible to be able to exercise your Stabilizers in the right way all by yourself. As it is with so many things in life, practice does not make perfect—only perfect practice makes perfect which is why we encourage you to consult a chiropractor Little Falls MN. Having an outside set of expert eyes train you, critique you, and give you feedback as you perform the exercises makes it possible for you to strengthen your Stabilizers to their fullest potential.

* Strength first, endurance second. Stabilizers are used all the time. Even when you’re asleep, they’re being used. You can’t get complacent by only getting them strong, you have to build up their endurance. They have to get strong and stay strong over a long period of time to keep you out of pain.

* Muscle memory takes time. Learning how to do these exercises comes in three stages. If you’ve ever played an instrument, this will make perfect sense. The first stage is where you understand what you have to do, but you simply can’t do it. In learning to play piano, for instance, understanding where your fingers need to land is entirely different from being able to get them to do so. At this point, you lack muscle coordination and strength. The only way to change that is through practice, patience, and time. There is no way to get around it. That’s the first stage of learning back-and-neck exercises—you understand what you should be doing, and you start working on being able to do it.

At some point, you’ll be able to strike the key at the right time and with the right finger, but it still takes a lot of concentration and effort. The second stage is you’re able to do it, but you really have to think about it.

Once you’re here, you have to continue to push your muscles. More practice. More repetition. More time. More coaching from a chiropractor Little Falls MN. Keep repeating this until you meet the third and final stage—where you do it without thinking. You’ll be like the master pianist whose fingers effortlessly grace the keys. The beautiful thing about getting to this point is that once you’re there, you really won’t have to think too much about your back and neck. Remember, the deep Stabilizers are involuntary muscles. In the Vicious Cycle, this works against you because once they start shutting down, they’re hard to stop. In the healing process, this works for you because all you have to do is feed them an occasional exercise session, and they take care of the rest. It’s a beautiful, very pain-free place to be.

* Don’t stop until you get enough. These exercises will take you a long way toward achieving flexibility, strength, and coordination, but it can’t stop there. These need to become a habit, and you have to continue long after the pain has lessened or perhaps disappeared completely. Stopping these exercises is like sending pain an invitation back into your life.

* Less is best. While you’re on your way to getting pain-free, you might be told that you’ll need a big, expensive, technologically advanced machines to strengthen the Stabilizers. Wrong. The best spinal rehab is done low-tech, and these things will do the trick: a yoga mat, seeing a chiropractor Little Falls MN, gym ball, a couple of weights, and wall bands.

* Consistency is vital. Who has the healthier set of teeth? The person who brushes once a week or the person who brushes daily? Duh. So it is with your Stabilizers. Doing the exercises once a day, every day, is better for you than doing a session once a week because it constantly reminds the Stabilizers how they should be behaving. Once a day, every day—that’s your quota.


Through spinal adjustments and seeing a chiropractor Little Falls MN, the joints have started moving fully, and through spinal exercise, the Stabilizers have gotten stronger. At this point, it’s like the broken mast has been repaired and secured. What needs to be done now is to hoist the anchor and set sail. To accomplish this, another component of the Vicious Cycle must be taken care of—the superficial Movers. 



  1. Lindstrom, I., Ohlund, C., Eek C., Wallin, L., Peterson, L. E., Fordyce, W. E., et al (1992). The effect of graded activity on patients with sub-acute low back pain: a randomized prospective clinical study with an operant-condition behavioral approach [Abstract]. Physical Therapy, 72 (4) 279-290.


  1. Taimela, S., Diederich, C., Hubsch, M., & Heinricy, M. (2000). The role of physical exercise and inactivity in pain recurrence and absenteeism from work after active outpatient rehabilitation for recurrent or chronic low back pain: A follow-up study. Spine, 25 (14), 1809-1816.


  1. Kool, J., de Bie, R., Oesch, P., Knusle, O., van den Brandt, P., & Bachman, S. (2004) Exercise reduces sick leave in patients with non-acute non-specific low back pain: A meta-analysis. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 36 (2), 49-62.


  1. Maul, I., Laubli, T., Oliveri, M., & Krueger, H. Long-term ef-fects of supervised physical training in secondary prevention of low back pain. European Spine Journal, 14 (6), 599-611.


  1. Choi, B.K.L., Verbeek, J.H., Tam, W. W-S., & Jiang, J.Y. (2010). Exercises for the prevention of recurrences of low-back pain. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 67, 795-796.


  1. Sofi, F., Molino, L. R., Nucida, V., Taviani, A., Benvenuti, F., Stuart, M., et al. (2011) Adaptive physical therapy and back pain: A non-randomized community-based intervention trial. European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitative Medicine, 47 (4), 543-549.


  1. Hayden, J., van Tulder, M.W., Mlmivaara, A., & Koes, B.W. (2005). Exercise therapy for treatment of non-specific low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2005 (3), CD000335.


  1. Hides, JA; Richardson, CA; Jull, GA. Multifidus muscle recovery is not automatic after resolution of acute, first-episode of low back pain. Spine 1996; 21 (23): 2763-2769.


  1. Hayden, J.A., van Tulder, M.W., Malmivarra, A., & Koes, B.W. (2005). Meta-analysis: Exercise therapy for nonspecific low back pain [Abstract]. Annals of Internal Medicine, 142 (9), 765-775.

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