The Quick Story on
Fixing Your Own Back Pain

Dr. Bookspan's methods for back and disc pain Health & FItness THIRD ed, and
to solve chronic lower back pain from overarching,
The Ab Revolution™ No More Crunches No More Back Pain,
are used by military and top spine centers around the world.
Named "The St. Jude of the Joints" by Harvard School of Medicine clinicians


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© Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Director, Neck and Back Pain Sports Medicine
Headmaster, Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine - The Fixa U School of Healthy Medicine


Hello, You're on the web site of Dr. Jolie Bookspan. This is a free, no-ad site dedicated to getting you back to your life - healthy, mobile, and happy. This is evidence-based primary source sports medicine. There are hundreds of articles here on this webs site for you to have a better life.

This one short article is part of the more comprehensive web article on Fixing Back Pain. This short article summarizes common sources of back pain. Stop those and you no longer get the pain and your back can heal. Then use the longer article to see what more to do.

Even though news articles quote back doctors saying that no one knows what causes back pain and nothing seems to work to fix it, that is not true. Most back pain is not mysterious or difficult to fix, surgery and pills are almost never needed, you don't need bed rest or giving up favorite sports, and most of all, you don't need to "live with pain." Not all exercise is medicine. Not all medicine is healthy. We change that.


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A Short History of My Work To Develop These Methods (skip this to go straight to fix pain)
This information is not just copied from someone else who said it, or something I heard in a gym or in exercise science school. I am the scientist who researches what really happens. This is what I found through years of work. I started lab research studies in the 1970s to find why standard back pain and other pain exercises and treatments didn't work. I saw that rehab info was not being applied to how people move and live. I applied it. People got better. When I was working on studies of the human body during immersion for combat swimmers, the experimental subjects, the lab physicians, and others in the lab kept saying they had all these aches and pains. Exercises their own physical therapists and docs gave them did not work or made them worse. I fixed them up. Their doctors started calling me (calling the lab actually, as I don't have a phone) asking how I fixed them so well. They (and their physicians) started taking classes with me. In the 1980s, class participants asked me to write everything down for them. I was surprised. I thought they should have taken notes. I typed information sheets for them. More doctors came to me after taking my classes, saying they knew their standard Patient Handouts were ineffective exercises. They asked me to make handouts for their patients. I was surprised. Again. I thought they could do that themselves. I typed Patient Handout sheets for them. I kept collecting data like a good scientist, doing studies to test and retest methods, and develop better ones. When the internet came out, I sent handouts electronically, instead of photocopies. In the 1990s I typed everything in several training manuals that became books. One is Health & Fitness In Plain English - How To Be Happy, Healthy and Fit for the Rest of your Life. After two different publishers, the new THIRD edition of How To Be Happy, Healthy and Fit... eliminates wrong things previous publishers added over my objections. Another book is Fix Your Own Pain, with patient stories in every chapter showing why patients get better, or don't, and why. Several more books of my life's work tell how to make life pain free, stronger, and more fun. Each book is different.  I have seen fitness and rehab myths and fads come and go, but these methods remain effective over time. More about me in Research. Limited Classes to train directly with me, and workshop certification by me through AFEM for top students.  See the books on the BOOKS page, and at the bottom of this article. Now, go fix your pain.

To keep this quick and easy for you, much is shortened. Use this summary to get better now, and get the books to fill in the rest:

Info, Drawings of Backman!™ and photos copyright © Dr. Jolie Bookspan from the books and eBooks.


Start Your Quick Understanding and Fixing:

1. Pain with standing for long periods, running, walking, reaching/lifting overhead

Most people have heard that you're not supposed to slouch so that your lower back increases to a too-large inward curve (arching, swayback, hyperlordosis), but if you notice that your lower back aches after long standing, carrying packages, walking or running, and feels better to lean over forward or raise one or both legs, then you may be doing just that.

Too much inward lumbar curve is a common and overlooked cause of lower back pain after long standing, running, and lifting. Most people over-arch their lower spine every time they reach overhead, look up, or try to "stand straight, They think they are" pulling their shoulders back," but what they are really doing is leaning the upper body backward, increasing the lower spine inward curve. Then they go to the gym and the trainers tell them to increase lumbar arch and stick their behind out when exercising. This overarching lets the weight of your upper body rest on your lower back instead of the muscles of your torso and "core." The lower spine aches from it. People feel they need to bend over to fix it, but what they really need to do is stop the cause and change to neutral spine instead. They they won't get the pain in the first place.

Both images show injurious increase in lower back inward curve.
This bad posture is called hyperlordosis (overarching/ swayback)
It is so common, that people think overarching is normal posture, or that it is attractive or fit.
It is weak, sloppy, painful and injurious bad posture.

Check when you pull your shoulders back to "fix" your posture - do you lean backwards and / or arch your back to do it? When you reach your arms overhead, do you lean your upper body backwards, or tilt your pelvis forward in front, which increase lower spine arch?

Instead, straighten your pelvis so that it is not tilting forward, but is vertical, shown in the first drawing at left below. Don'tlean the upper body back when standig. "Tuck" your hip without bending forward or leaning back, to take the large arch out of your back and reduce the inward lumbar curve to neutral. My free article on neutral spine article tells exactly how. A quick start summary follows below under WHAT TO DO. Here is a drawing showing neutral (left) and two kinds of overarching (middle and right):

My work on hyperlordosis became summarized in the neutral spine method called The Ab Revolution - using your abs to move your pelvis and spine to neutral. No exercises do this - you move out of unhealthy, painful, tilted spine posture back to healthy neutral. That stops pain then and there. Why does this work? Because tilting your lower spine into too much inward curve presses your upper body weight down on your lower back and it hurts. Stopping doing that stops the cause of the pain. That is why so many people feel they want to bend forward or touch their toes - it is not hamstring stretching that fixes back pain, but not overarching. Instead of hurting then having to bend over all the time (which causes other problems) get functional built in stretch to the lower back using neutral spine. Strengthening is also not involved in being able to move out of painful position into healthful neutral spine. This is why all the hamstring stretching and ab crunches do not stop the cause of back pain and it keeps coming back - because you are still standing with too much inward lower back curve. Stop standing overarched and you will stop the causes of this kind of lower back pain (there are other kinds of course, more below). Click the neutral spine ab article for more.

Use neutral spine when you stand, walk, run, lift overhead. When you get your upper body weight off your low back by reducing an overly large arch, you will immediately feel reduction in low back pain and pressure. Exercise magazines say "use neutral spine" but then they show exercises done with the low back arched to an unhealthy degree. It is not sexy, it is a sloppy posture. It is as bad a habit as smoking. More on this follows.

2. Pain When Sitting, and From Bad Forward Bending

Most people know it is injurious to the discs to lift things by bending over at the waist. But you do it - all day picking up socks, petting the dog, for laundry, trash, making the bed, looking in the refrigerator, and all the dozens of times you bend over things. Then you go to the gym and lift weights bent over, stretch by bending forward, do yoga bending over, then lift and carry things bent forward, pick up your gym bad bent over (bending wrong again). No wonder your back hurts.

All this forward bending (flexion) strains soft tissue and over time, pushes your discs posteriorly (degenerating and eventually herniating them). Over years, you keep pushing the disc until it is sticking out (herniated, or "slipped"). The resulting herniation can press on nearby nerves. bad bending, stretching, exercising, and sitting is the main cause of how you get a "pinched nerve" also called "impingement." It may hurt in your low back, give you pain or pressure in your buttock. Pain may wrap around to the front of your hip. If the disc presses on your sciatic nerve, you get sciatic pain down your leg. If you slouch your head forward all the time, you can push discs backward in your neck, sending pain down the nerves in your arm.

Tight muscles can also press on the same nerves mimicking sciatica. A degenerating disc is not a disease, but a simple, mechanical injury that can heal, if you just stop grinding it and physically pushing it out of place with terrible habits.

Picture yourself standing sideways facing right.
On the left above is a normal disc between two low back vertebrae.
On the right is a disc pushed out (herniated) from years of forward bending habits.
Forward bending gradually pushes discs out to the back. Lift and bend properly to avoid disc damage.

Sitting with your low back rounded is a bad habit. It eventually can degenerate, then herniate your low back discs.


Check For Bad Habit 1- OverArching When Standing and Carrying Things

Look in any fitness or health magazine and you will see people standing and exercising with their behind stuck out in back. Although trainers and aerobics instructors often tell people to stand this way, it is a major source of back pain.

Allowing your low back to sway, exaggerating the normal inward curve when standing, walking, and reaching allows the weight of your upper body to grind down on your low back. This is called "sway back" or lordosis. Lordosis is not a structural condition, but bad posture. It causes much low back pain, including facet pain. Facets are the joints of your vertebrae. Allowing your body position to sag in an arch pressures your facets and low back, causing pain.

Arching your back when you reach up or lift is a bad postural habit that causes much back pain. Arched back (lordosis) is easily stopped by using your muscles to tilt your hip so that you do not arch. This uses abdominal muscles. This is how abs help your back. Simply strengthening your abs does not stop the arching that causes pain. Using your abdominal muscles to reposition your spine away from arching under your body weight and the things you carry is the key. This concept is The Ab Revolution™.

Don't arch your back in order to look upward. Instead lift up with your upper back and shoulder muscles (unround the upper back) without arching and letting your upper body weight rest downward on your low back. That is a healthier movement for both upper and lower back.

Don't arch your back or lean backwards when you lift and carry things in front of you. Two ways to fix it - If you arch your back by sticking out your behind, then reduce lordosis by tucking your hip, as if starting to do a crunch but without bending forward. This will straighten your body. Another kind of arching lets the upper body sag backward, but the hip is forward. To straighten this bad posture, tuck the upper body forward.

Use this neutral spine technique all the time, particularly when carrying loads, running, walking, reaching and lifting overhead. Your packages can be a built-in abdominal muscle exercise, and in this way, your abs prevent your weight from crushing down on your low back causing pain. This does not happen automatically, just have having strong abs. This is where "ab" programs miss how to fix back pain. The pain comes from the bad arched posture. You use your abs to move your back out of this posture. Use of abs for healthy positioning is The Ab Revolution™. For more, read the article about using abs to help your back - The Ab Revolution™ on this web site, or better yet, get the book, The Ab Revolution™.


Check For Bad Habit 2- Forward Head

Jutting your chin forward is a bad posture called a "forward head." It looks old, creates much neck and upper back pain, and is a prime contributor to herniated cervical discs. Are you sitting with your head forward right now reading this?

A forward head (left) is a major cause of neck, upper back, and shoulder pain. Healthy head and neck position (right) stops the pain. Many people are too tight to use this healthy posture. See the neck pain article, or the full back pain article for easy stretches and exercises that make good positioning possible.

Pull your chin in, gently, not stiffly. Don't tip your chin up or down. Use "chin-in" as daily posture, not an "exercise" called "dorsal glide or double chin" you only do for "reps" then go back to slouched forwrd head. To practice, stand with your heels, hips, upper back, and the back of your head against a wall. If you can't do this comfortably, you are too tight to stand up straight. This is common. The Fix Neck Pain Article gives stretches that restore ability to straighten out and make healthyupright position comfortable and possible. Don't let your lower back increase in arch when you straighten your upper body.

Check For Bad Habit 3- Round Back - Bad Bending and Lifting

Slouching when you stand, sit and bend so that your back curves, like an "old person," eventually strains and weakens your back muscles, and pushes discs outward. Disc herniation usually result from mechanically pushing them posteriorly with chronic flexion - that means sitting rounded and bending over wrong instead of bending your knees. Are you sitting rounded right now reading this?

People go to the gym and pay a trainer to make them do squats and lunges with an upright back and properly bent knees. Then, they bend over at the waist and pick up their gym bag to go home. Bend properly for everything, even the water fountain, to pick things up from the floor, to look in the refrigerator, or take things out of the dishwasher. Keep your torso upright and bend your knees. Keep your knees over your feet, not slumping forward, which is hard on the knees. Don't stretch by bending over at the waist without supporting your body weight on your hands. Many people are surprised to find that they injure their back doing forward yoga stretches. You wouldn't pick up a package that way. It is not really a surprise.

Bending wrong eventually makes discs shift outward (herniate) and break down (degenerate).


Bending over forward hurts the discs when you bend wrong all day over chores and desk, AND ALSO in the gym bending over to luft weeights and touch toes and do yoga stretches. There are better ways to lift and stretch. You don't have to hurt your discs to do it. These free articles show you how to get started with smarter ways.

When standing and carrying loads, don't hunch or round forward under the weight of the things you carry. It is not the pack on your back making you slouch. It is not using your muscles to counter the pull, that is the problem. Check your posture against a wall, described above, each chance you get: in the elevator, against a wall or door jam. When you walk away, keep your great new movement mechanics. Posture does not mean rigid tight stiff upright position. Good ergonomics are dynamic and you stay healthy while you move.

Strengthening And Stretching Is Crucial But Not The Whole Answer

Tight, weak muscles cannot do their job and easily cry out in fatigue and stress during motions that in-shape muscles easily support. Strengthening is needed, but will not automatically "give" you good posture or make you bend and move properly. Plenty of slightly people stand properly with no back pain. Plenty of muscular people have terrible posture, gait, and lifting habits, and the back pain that comes with it. You just need to retrain bad habits. Take our fun classes No More Back Pain, Stretch and Feel Better, The Ab Revolution, Lower Body Revolution, and others.

See the full-length back pain article for FUNCTIONAL, effective exercises.

An Injury, Not A Condition

The majority of back pain comes from bad standing, sitting, and bending habits. The strain and pressure of letting your body weight grind on your joints over years of bad mechanical habits causes pain, and leads to arthritis, curvatures, impingement, and bad discs. Just as smoking one cigarette at a time eventually can cause trouble, back pain almost always develops from years of simple bad habits. Back pain that comes on suddenly is like a heart attack that developed over years.


Important Points

Back pain often comes and goes. People desperate for relief during acute episodes try strange things. Don't fall for pills, gadgets, and potions. Most back pain is easily remedied if you change the constant, injurious process of bad body mechanics.

Remember that "doing back exercises," or yoga, or meditating, or getting a shot, but not changing the bad habits all the rest of the day that hurt in your back in the first place, is like eating cake and ice cream morning, noon, and night, then doing your "exercises." You are not balancing the harm.
Is it natural to slouch? As natural as wetting your pants, but you learn to hold it even when you don't feel like it.

Back pain is not a normal result of carrying heavy things or getting older. It's not because we walk upright on two legs. Bed rest and inactivity make back pain worse.

The average person does so many mechanical things every day to damage their back and neck, it is amazing they don't hurt more. Use your muscles to keep posture when standing and carrying things, and don't lean back when you pick things up or reach overhead. You'll burn calories, get great exercise without going to a gym, and fix your own back pain.

How To Remember:

You Don’t Have To Live With Pain


What To Try Next:

Read more in the Full article - also free - Fixing Lower Back Pain


Another Nice Thing To Try:

Now that your back is better and you saved hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars not needing unhealthful pills, surgery, expensive products, and treatments you can take a vacation, give to the poor and still click the DONATE box - secure and safe through PayPal.

Look what you saved on years of pills, gadgets, and treatments that don't work :-) Thank you !

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More Free Articles on This Web Site:

Back Pain

Neck and Shoulder Pain

Knee Pain

Safer, Saner Exercise That's More Fun

More descriptions on the BOOKS page. Have fun!

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Information, drawings, and photos are © protected copyright. To cite this article or any parts, put author Dr. Jolie Bookspan, and link to this site at the top and bottom of your reprinting. A suggestion to get my books is also nice. No Derivative Works License means no changes to content, wording or links.

Drawings of Backman!™ copyright © by Dr. Jolie Bookspan from the book Stretching Smarter Stretching Healthier, Fix Your Own Pain, and others.

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