Most people are quite comfortable with the concept of brushing their teeth regularly. They do it not because they have tooth decay or gum disease, but because they don’t want to develop either. However, when it comes to the back, most people assume that exercise or repetitive movements should be done only when something has already gone wrong, specifically in response to pain.
At Gemini Health Group we believe, based on the latest available research as well as years of practical experience, that creating a balance between bending forward (flexion) and bending backward (extension) is at the core of maintaining a healthy spine and minimizing the risk of injury.
Why We Are Experts
Through his work assisting Dr. Hamilton Hall in teaching a second-year class on low back pain at the University of Toronto medical school, Alex Gurba, the founder of Gemini Health Group, developed a deep understanding of the biomechanics of the back as well as the mechanical approach required to treat it effectively.
Stats Don’t Lie
The average person bends forward between 2-4 THOUSAND times per day as opposed to a fraction of that bending backward (1). Considering sitting involves flexion of the low back, it’s not hard to imagine how we get to that astronomical amount of bending forward each day. For most people not sitting is not an option, whether for work, commuting or relaxation, we all spend a significant portion of the day sitting. This massive imbalance in movement and positions is at the core of a growing epidemic of low back pain in our society with low back pain being the most common cause of recurring lost time from work (2).
What’s Wrong With The System?
In today’s healthcare system individuals with low back pain are treated with:
- pain medication
- traction machines
- inversion tables
- TENS machines
- joint manipulation
All of which are quite effective at what they are designed to do, relieve pain. However, none of these pain-relieving techniques can address the problem at its source which is the huge imbalance in the directions of movement and the prolonged flexed spinal positions.
The Solution Is A Matter of Habit
Creating a routine that involves repetitive backward bending with an exercise such as the sloppy push up (see picture) can be a big step in the right direction. The sloppy push up is an exercise that reverses the pressures created on the spinal discs by forwarding flexion and sitting and allows the lumbar facet joints to close fully in extension. This type of repetitive movement, when done consistently, can help restore balance to the spine and help abolish existing back pain as well as minimize the frequency of future pain bouts.
In the same way that brushing teeth twice daily is a matter of habit for most people, it is ingrained in their daily routine, so can the sloppy push up become a staple in an individual’s lifestyle. It can become the way that we, as a society, incorporate a practical and preventative approach to dealing with the growing problem of recurring back pain. Regular tooth-brushing has helped oral health of people world-wide over the last several decades, regular backward bending can help improve back health by bringing balance to the way that we move the back.
Starting with a set of ten repetitions with only a couple of seconds in the start and finish positions and progressing to twice daily to both begin and end each day with some backward bending.
The sloppy push up is the next toothbrushing. It will revolutionize back health!
- McGill, Stuart M., et al. “Coordination of muscle activity to assure stability of the lumbar spine.” Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 13.4 (2003): 353-359.
- Hall, Hamilton. “Effective Spine Triage: Patterns of Pain” Ochsner Journal (2014) Spring; 14(1): 88–95.