Back Pain Expert Nick Clark: Crunches Crush The Spine


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Sam D asks “I was told by my doctor to strengthen my core to alleviate my lower back pain. I have been performing crunches and using the ab machines at the gym and my lower back is getting worse! Why is this happening?


Hey Sam,

Strengthening the core is imperative in treating lower back pain, however, crunches and ab machines ARE NOT the proper form of strengthening. When you perform a crunch you are repetitively flexing the lower back which it is not designed to do. In fact, doing this will actually increase your lower back pain, especially if you have a herniated disc.

This bending force on the lower back pushes the gel-like disc that sits in between the two vertebrae backward into a nerve root. This causes pain, spasm, and tingling down the leg. To better understand this substitute the word nerve with wire, when that wire gets hit it responds negatively leading to the aforementioned symptoms.

Secondly, ab machine at the gym do not help lower back pain because they typically force you to flex and rotate at the lower spine. Flexion and rotation at the lower spine is the exact mechanism for a herniated disc so why would you practice it! Performing these movements is analogous to having a new driver practice a car accident so they are prepared if it happens. We want to prevent the “body accident” not practice it.

Moreover, these gym machines are performed in a totally controlled environment, which does not replicate the demands of everyday living. This means it will not help prevent or alleviate lower back pain, especially if you are in a vulnerable position. A vulnerable position could be as simple as picking up your kids or cleaning the dishes.

So what can you do in place of crunches and ab machines?

Start out at simple, with a wall plank and a modified side plank. These movements train the core and the lumbar spine to be “anti” movers which are their role in life. Being an “anti-mover” means you train to prevent and eliminate excessive movement that leads to injury.

For more simple and actionable steps visit our website at https://www.movementmattersny.org/ and download our free guide “The 3 Keys To Living Life Without Limitation” or call 1-845-283-0274.

Nick Clark
214 West Street, Warwick, NY 10990
845-283-0274




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