Everett Chiropractic Center Blog

December 30, 2008

Basic Spine Exercises: Low Back ROM #1 (The Million Dollar Low Back Exercise)

Filed under: Back pain, Chiropractic — Tags: , , , , — doctordilday @ 2:45 am

Start Position-arms, shoulders and head stay down

First one way, then the other; first slow, then not so slow: BE CAREFUL!

It was more than 15 years ago. I had already been working out for 20 years, and was currently as fit as any 30-something would need to be, thanks to weight training and basketball mostly. One day, after getting adjusted, my chiropractor-at-the-time said that I should do this exercise. He told me what it would be like doing it: how I would have trouble with the flexibility, there would be plenty of joint noise as things moved in my spine, and that my flexibility would improve greatly.

I didn’t believe him. I figured that I was in such good shape that the flexibility would not be and issue and whether there was joint noise or not didn’t matter to me.

Anyway, I did it. And I did have trouble with the flexibility. There was a lot of joint noise – especially in the beginning several weeks. And my flexibility did improve greatly; and continued to improve until the motion was free and there was little or no joint noise (because there was little or no joint restriction)!

This is a “chiropractic” exercise, designed to make joints move and keep them moving. It also stretches all the lower back muscles, and the hip, and the muscles of the back of the leg. It’s done slowly at first, but the intention is for it to eventually be quicker and more dynamic than any of the other Basic Back Exercises. BE CAREFUL!

In fact, this exercise is a little beyond “basic.” But it it still an appropriate exercise for someone with a reasonably healthy back who is not having any back pain and who is in adjustment – or at least hasn’t been out of adjustment for very long.

It’s done by first lying spread-eagle on your back on the floor (the first reason most people end up not doing it after we recommend it – they don’t have the floor space). With the arms straight out from the body and the legs apart as far you they will go, you place the hands flat on the floor for stability.

From there you alternately swing first one foot over to attempt to touch the opposite hand, then the other foot over the other way to touch the other hand. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, 10, 12, 14 times or so. Again, do the first 5-6 reps slow and easy so you will be convinced that it won’t hurt to do it. Gradually, perhaps over a periods of weeks, build up the speed and try to get the foot a little closer to the hand.

In the beginning, the feet won’t reach the hands. There will be joint noises as you lower spine joints are freed up. Oh, and you won’t be able to straighten the leg – the back of the leg will likely be too tight.

After however long – weeks or months of daily practice – your leg will be straight; you foot will reach the hand; and you will get less joint noise. When you go in to get checked, your chiropractor will find less work to do in your low back.

Be careful. If it hurts, don’t do it! This exercise involves the combination of movements most notorious for causing lower back injuries: both forward flexion of the lower spine and twisting of the lower spine. There is no load, i.e., you are not lifting with your lower back, so it is relatively safe.

After doing the Low Back ROM #1, I do #2, which is to put the two legs together vertically, and then move them all the way to the left and back to the right in a touch-and-go fashion. This moves the joints a little higher up in the spine where the rib cage starts. Some people discover to their amazement that they are so weak that they can not even do this movement. If that’s the case, bend your knees so it is easier and work from there.

LB ROM Exercise #2 Start Position



  1. I can’t wait to try this. Will this help the upper back, too? If I have pain in my upper back is this too strenuous of an exercise to try? I’ll probably try it before you get back to me anyway. 🙂 Thanks, Dennis!

    Comment by Tia — January 8, 2009 @ 3:10 am

  2. This isn’t really a mid back exercise even though it does work that area some; the Sphynx is for the mid back.

    The trouble with doing the exercise while you are in pain is that if you are out of adjustment, and you do the exercise, and the joints are not freed up by doing the exercise – they remain stuck, then you will have aggravated the condition some.

    If you are in pain, then you are at the first aid stage: use ice – 5 minutes on the place the hurts; 30 minutes off. Repeat, repeat, repeat…


    Comment by doctordilday — January 8, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

  3. Sciatica is a painful condition that causes people to change their life style and decrease most of their activities. In all my years of practice I have found that the best way to get rid of sciatica is an approach that includes, spinal elongation, spinal decompression, massage, yoga, exercise and chiropractic pressure point therapy.

    Comment by Dr. Kenny — January 10, 2009 @ 3:42 am

  4. […] Hammad Khan posted a noteworthy aricle today onHere’s a small snippetIt also stretches all the lower back muscles and the hip and the muscles of the back of the leg. It’s done slowly at first, but the intention is for it to be quicker and more dynamic than any of the other Basic Back Exercises. … […]

    Pingback by Chiropractor Back Blog » Basic Spine Exercises: Low Back ROM #1 (The Million Dollar Low … — March 1, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

    • Hello , I want to say thank you for your great website and advices . With a bad back for years , i just beginning Tai Chi and your advice are great . In the Yang Tai Chi that i do , the instructor often tell to try to flatten ( or eliminate ) the lower back lordosis , but i feel it’s not good for me . i readed your advice by trying to keep a neutral position with the spine and i think it’s a better way . I want to try your Basic back exercice like this one but i would ask you if you can send us a video of this exercice . I’m french and it’s a bit hard to really see how this exercice must be doing . I’m affraid to do it wrong . Thank you again !

      Comment by Willy — May 11, 2011 @ 10:30 am

  5. It’s possible that some tai chi folks don’t really understand Neutral Spine – leave just a little curve in the lower back and you will be in good shape.

    As for the video, no, I don’t have one. I do have at least one photo. I will try to find it and put it here. I didn’t put it here earlier because I thought that I would get something better to put here…

    And I will fix the typos in this post when I get a chance:-)


    Comment by doctordilday — May 11, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

  6. thank you very much for adding those pictures!
    They are very helpful. I was doing this exercice in the wrong way. And thank you for adding Alternative No. 2. I try when I’m well established with the first.

    I’ll try to keep my spine in a neutral position in tai chi but it will not be easy because i feel some positions necessarily implies that relaxation of the pelvis that delordosis the lumbar region. As soon as I release the pelvis with knees bent I feel my pelvis go in slight retroversion. Hard to find the right balance!

    Thank you again and in the future if you could put pictures or link videos of the others exercices it would be perfect!

    Thank you so much for your valuable advice.


    Comment by Willy — May 11, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  7. j’ai oublié de vous demander ce qui est le mieux pour la respiration dans cette exercice ?
    expirer en amenant la jambe vers le pied et inspirer en la ramenant vers le sol ou l’inverse ?

    😉 Thanks .

    Comment by Willy — May 11, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

  8. oops ! sorry the same in english :

    I forgot to ask what is best for breathing in this exercise?
    exhale bringing the leg into the foot and inhale when returning to the ground or vice versa?

    Comment by Willy — May 11, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

  9. First off, I now realize why I didn’t put that photo in the post in the first place – too much of a crotch shot. I will see about getting this one replaced sometime. In the mean time, it will do… few people ever look here anyway.

    Second, that Neutral Spine thing. It’s tricky. You are right, it is a balance. It’s a feeling thing, not easy to understand intellectually. I didn’t even know that I knew it until Pavel, the Kettlebell God explained it. Then I realized that I had almost gotten it right in the Internal Strength training (making an adjustment of less than an inch made all the difference in the world). Once I got clear on that I realized that it is everywhere in the form, starting with Back Stance. In theory, your tai chi instruction would clear it up. There is talk in tai chi about the “Qua” but where you get a clear explanation of that? I have not ever heard any tai chi people make any kind of sense of it.

    Third, the breathing. It’s tempting to give a detailed and thoughtful explanation of how to breath while doing the spine exercises. In the end my tai chi teacher’s answer to all breathing questions suffices – actually, it’s a great answer. “Breath naturally”. He is right, just remember to breath and let the breathing take care of itself. It will be fine.


    Comment by doctordilday — May 13, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

  10. thank you, I appreciate your answer!
    It is true that your photo is a little larger But at least it is demonstrative 😉 . Oh and the photos on your website are very good ! It’s my hobby too 😉

    I had a little trouble translating your text for tai chi, but for the neutral spine, I’ll try to trust my intuition. In fact when my Tai Chi teacher talks about release the pelvis and do a little retroversion, I realize that it attenuates the lumbar curve but without removing it completely, so everything is fine. In contrast in some Qigong exercices i notice that many exercises clears Completly the lumbar lordosis (Shaolin White Crane Qigong, Wild Goose Qigong) as they are undulating movements of the spine, just like the exercise of the Camel back on your site. I guess it’s actually a question of balance. Work to maintaining a neutral spine (Tai Chi) and mobility of the other (qigong) …

    And for breathing you’re right ! I have to breath normally!

    Thank you again.


    Comment by Willy — May 14, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

  11. […] chi and Zhang San Feng Basic Spine Exercise (LB ROM #1 & #2) Basic Spine Exercises (Dorsal Twist) Basic Spine Exercises (Sphynx) Basic Spine Exercises (Million […]

    Pingback by Index of Chiropractic, Tai Chi and other Wellness Posts « Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — August 13, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

  12. […] I just thought it funny. So here is the exercise for those who are interested. It’s posted here also with more detail about the how […]

    Pingback by Funny | Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — December 31, 2015 @ 10:22 am

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