Exercises

EXERCISES TO TREAT BACK PAIN

Getting Started

Before engaging in any exercises using the Backrack™, it is important to acknowledge why these exercises in particular are beneficial when it comes to treating back pain. The basic principle behind the device is that through the exercises that you have been recommended, your spine will be decompressed through low-moderate pressure that is applied through the wooden nodules on each row of the rack.

Who Can Perform These Exercises?

These exercises are suitable for everyone, barring a few exceptions. There are some contraindications to using the Backrack™. To be more precise, the Backrack™ should not be used if you have one of the following conditions:
  • A vertebral fracture (that is not healed).
  • Severe scoliosis (Cobb angle > 45°).
  • A malignant, spinal tumour.
  • A spinal infection (e.g. meningitis)
If you are in any doubt as to whether the Backrack™ is appropriate for you, please consult your doctor. However, if you are fit to use the Backrack™, then it is good to note that the exercises appear in order of ascending difficulty (and/or pressure). We therefore recommend that you are comfortable with each maneuver, before trying the next one.

Important: Before starting in the neutral position, make sure that the rack is placed on a sturdy surface (such as the floor) and it does not shake. The neutral, or starting, position is suitable for people with moderate-severe back pain. Achieving this position is actually very easy. For a more detailed explanation on how to get in the starting position on the rack, please visit our Getting On section.

How Do I Get ON the Backrack?

Getting on to the Backrack™ is actually very easy. The recommended way is given below in detail. There are other ways to do it, but please follow our instructions. They will help to minimise the strain on your back (this is very important if you have a particularly bad back).

1.Place the Backrack™ on the floor. Kneel down at the bottom, left-hand corner of the rack.

In this context, bottom left is defined looking down the Backrack™, from top to bottom. Ideally, the floor should be carpeted: this will help to cushion your knees (it will also help when getting off the rack). Alternatively, place the Backrack™ on an exercise mat.

2.Put your left hand down on the floor, towards the top end of the rack. Put your right hand down, towards the bottom end. Next, lower yourself gently onto the end of the rack (as shown).

Adjust your weight, so that you are sitting at the end of the rack, in a central position, with your knees bent. Your legs should be on each side of the centre-line.

3.Now, slide, or roll yourself backwards along the rack, until you are sitting in the central curve.

4. Then, begin to roll down the rack towards the bottom. At the same time, lean back into the upper curve of the rack. As you continue to roll down, allow your spine to move progressively into the upper curve. It should be supported at all times. Keep your knees bent at all times. Do not straighten your legs (this will strain your lower back).

Starting Position

5. At the end of this manoeuvre, you should be lying on the rack, with your knees bent, and your spine resting in the central channel. You should be lying in a central position, with the wooden nodules running down either side of your spine.

You are now in the starting position.

The nodules on the last roller should not be in contact with any part of your body. The nodules on the penultimate roller (second down from the top) should be in contact with your upper neck, just below the back of the head. As a result of this, the last spindle should rotate freely.

When you are in the starting position, you can check this by placing your hands behind your neck and trying to rotate the last spindle. If it will not rotate, you need to move down the rack. If you are too far down the rack, the nodules on the penultimate roller will push into your skull (you will know if this happens). To correct this, you need to slide back up the rack.

How Do I Get OFF the Backrack?

Getting off the Backrack™ is just as easy as getting on it. Below we have provided the recommended way to get off the rack. Make sure you follow our instructions to avoid straining your back.

1.To get off the rack, start in the neutral position.

2. From there, using your right leg, push into the floor. At the same time, rotate your head and upper body towards the left-hand side of the rack.

Complete this part of the manoeuvre by rolling onto the floor. Your legs should now be together and bent.

3. Once you’ve rolled onto the floor, using your right hand, lift yourself up so that you are resting on your left forearm (as shown). At this stage, your legs should still be together. 4. Next, push yourself up with your forearm until you are resting on your left hand. The sole of your right foot should rest on the floor.
5. Finally, put your right hand on the floor in front of you. Push off with your right foot and both hands. As you do this, swing your left leg under your body so that you rest on your left knee (and the sole of your right foot). Push up with your right leg until you are standing.

Basic Exercises

The basic exercises will decompress your spine using low-moderate pressure. They are suitable for everyone (barring a few exceptions, or Contraindications) mentioned in a section above.
The exercises appear in order of ascending difficulty (and/or pressure). We therefore recommend that you are comfortable with each maneuver, before trying the next one.If you are in any doubt as to whether the Backrack™ is appropriate for you, please consult your doctor.

Starting Position

Begin all Backrack exercises from the starting (neutral) position that was presented above in the ‘How Do I Get ON the Backrack?‘ section. When you place yourself in the starting position, a small amount of pressure is applied to the spine, and you are not required to move (the spine rests in a neutral position). However, it might take you a few turns to get into a comfortable position where your spine is neutral. If you have a bad neck, you can rotate your head to one side. This will shift the weight of your head over to the corresponding side of your neck, increasing the amount of pressure in this region. If you need to reduce the amount of pressure, place a folded towel behind your neck.

1. Single Leg Raise

From the neutral position, perform a single leg raise while your back is still laid on the rack. After holding this position for a short period of time (perhaps 30 seconds), return your leg to the floor and raise the other leg. Repeat a few times. Please make sure that you grasp your leg behind the knee (as shown). This will prevent the knee from being squashed. You can alter the exact point of pressure by varying the angle of your leg, bringing it closer to your chest, as and when you feel comfortable. If you have had a bad (lower) back for a long period of time, your hamstring muscles will be tight. You should therefore approach this exercise carefully and take things slowly. Bring your leg towards your chest in small increments.

2. Double Leg Raise

Use the neutral position as a starting point for this exercise. Instead of just one leg, lift both legs at the same time. After holding this position for a short period of time (perhaps 30 seconds), bring your legs further towards your chest (as shown), and please make sure that you grasp each leg behind the knee. Again, hold for 30 seconds, and repeat until your legs are as high as possible. There is no need to put your legs down after each lift. Rather, you can lower them until they reach a 90-degree angle. Also please note that the double leg raise will increase the pressure on your lower spine, as it shifts the weight of both legs over to your lower back. Approach this exercise slowly if you have had a bad lower back.

3. Backward Tilt

Please note that this exercise will increase the pressure on your neck. If you have had a bad (lower) back for a long period of time, you may find that you have weak knees. You should therefore approach this exercise carefully and take things slowly. Starting from a neutral position lying on the rack, lift your hips so as to allow your weight to be supported by your upper back and neck. You can alter the exact point of pressure by varying the angle of your legs. Hold this tilted position for a few seconds then return to the neutral starting position. Repeat a few times. It is better to hold the position for a short period of time, and to do a larger number of reps (or repetitions) instead of holding it for a longer period and doing a small number of reps.
Finally, remember to keep breathing throughout the exercise.

Advanced Exercises

You should not attempt the advanced movements until you have partially mobilised (or decompressed) your spine. In order to do this, you will need to perform the Basic Exercises for at least three months. During this time, the Backrack should be used on a regular basis (3-4 times a week), for at least 20 minutes per session.

1. The Double Leg Raise (Advanced Variation)

The advanced version of the double leg raise is performed similarly to the basic one, but with a variation (please refer to the Basic Exercises for more detail). This exercise will apply maximum pressure to your lumbar spine. Just like with a regular double leg raise, lift both legs at the same time. However, instead of grabbing your knees and holding a central position, tilt your body to one side, so that your balance is shifted to either the left or the right side of your spine while you keep your legs close to your chest. Hold this tilted position for 30 seconds. If you can, bring your knees closer to your chest at this point. Return back to the starting position. Also please make sure that you grasp each leg behind the knee.

2. The Stomach Crunch

This exercise will strengthen the deep, abdominal muscles that stabilise the spine. Moderate pressure is applied to the lower back.

Begin by lying on the rack in the neutral position. After positioning yourself correctly, use your hands to support the weight of your head.

Lift your upper torso (upper back, shoulders and neck) off the rack. Use your hands to support the weight of your head. You do not need to lift very far.

Do not use your arms to lift: this will stop you from targeting your abdominal muscles. Do not tense your neck (supporting your head will help).

When you lift, focus your eyes on the ceiling: this will help to keep your neck (and back) as straight as possible. You should try to avoid bringing your head towards your chest: this will round your neck and upper back too much (it will also encourage you to lift using your arms).

As you lift, keep your lower abdominals tensed (up and in), and breath out slowly. Exhale, until you come to the end of your breath: this will help you to keep the tension in your abdominal muscles in a safe and reliable manner.

Some people hold the tension by not breathing: this is very bad for you.

As you lower your torso, breath in slowly (keeping your abdominals tensed). Again, support the weight of your head using your hands. Do not tense your neck.

Also, do not use your arms to lower yourself down, and try to avoid bringing your head towards your chest. You should aim to finish inhaling just as you return to the starting position.

Additional Advice Regarding the Stomach Crunch

Start with a low number of repetitions (maybe as low as five or ten). Perform the exercise every other day.

When you feel comfortable with this exercise, you should begin to strengthen your back (using the Reverse Leg Raise exercise).

Both muscle groups (abdominal and back) play an important role in stabilising the spine. However, these groups oppose each other: one sits in front of the spine, and the other behind it. You therefore need to balance your strength by doing both exercises (otherwise, you may experience problems).

If you have had back pain for a reasonable length of time (whether the pain is intermittent, or constant) you will probably have weak and tight abdominal muscles. You therefore need to decompress your spine before you attempt to strengthen your back.

If you feel that you have strained your muscles (at any stage) you should stop. This probably means that your lower spine is too stiff, and your muscles are too tight. Continue to use the Backrack™ until you feel ready to try this exercise again.

3. Lean Back (With Tilt)

The Lean Back (with tilt) applies maximum pressure to the mid-upper back, or thoracic spine. It requires a certain amount of strength and flexibility from your abdominal muscles; for this reason, we recommend that you feel comfortable with the Stomach Crunch before you attempt this maneuver.

The exercise is best done en-route to the starting position, when getting on to the Backrack. When you begin to roll down the rack stop half-way down. Continue to breathe and do not strain your neck.

Next, put your hands behind your head and lean back into the upper curve of the rack. This will increase the pressure on your thoracic spine.

After holding this position for a short period of time (perhaps 30 seconds), roll down the rack a short distance. This will allow you to target the next vertebra along your back. Again, hold for 30 seconds and repeat until the pressure on your spine begins to fade (or until you feel your abdominal muscles tiring).

You can increase the pressure still further by tilting over to one side. This will shift your weight onto one side of your upper spine. Please continue to breathe throughout the excercise. Do not tense your neck or over-arch your lower back.

Finally, the Reverse Leg Raise is the last exercise that we’ll be covering in this section. Reverse leg raises strengthen the lower back muscles. They are actually performed without the use of the Backrack™, but it will help to strengthen your spine and prevent further injury. They will also help to balance the strength of your abdominal muscles (developed using the Stomach Crunch).

Because these exercises require a certain amount of strength and flexibility from your abdominal muscles, we recommend that you feel comfortable with the Stomach Crunch before you attempt this manoeuvre.

You should not attempt this exercise until you have mobilised (or decompressed) your lower spine. You will need to use the Backrack™ in order to do this. When your back is sufficiently decompressed, you should have little or no back pain, and you should be reasonably flexible.

Do not attempt the exercise until you have used the Backrack™ on a regular basis for at least three months. If you are in any doubt as to whether this exercise is appropriate for you, please consult your doctor.

Please click on the header of this section to read the full details on how to perform the Reverse Leg Raise.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Before attempting any exercise please ensure you are in good health and do not suffer from any of the following:

  • A vertebral fracture (that is not healed).
  • Severe scoliosis (Cobb angle > 45°).
  • A malignant, spinal tumour.
  • A spinal infection (e.g. meningitis).