Spine flexion/bending forward, some fear it but we’re here to tell you it is SAFE to do! “Lifting with a neutral back” was born out of some studies done in the early 2000s with the use of dead pig spines; essentially, repeatedly flexing the pig’s spine to the extremes of motion caused herniated discs. But what does the research say about living, human tissue? A systematic review done by Saraceni and colleagues (2020) found that: There is no “association between lumbar spine flexion when lifting and the development of significantly disabling low back pain (LBP)” The “current evidence to avoid lumbar flexion during lifting to reduce LBP risk is not evidence-based.” The fundamental motions of the spine are flexion and extension, and studies have shown that spinal flexion exercises are essential for pain control, performance enhancement, and injury resilience.
Most of our lives are spent in front of us so let’s build the capacity to flex. Check out the videos below to see some intro exercises and progressions to get you started!
1st video: Fingers-to-knee crunch
2nd video: Spine segmentation at the wall
3rd video: A Jefferson curl
References: Callaghan JP, McGill SM. Intervertebral disc herniation: Studies on a porcine model exposed to highly repetitive flexion/extension motion with compressive force. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2001 Jan;16(1):28-37. doi: 10.1016/s0268-0033(00)00063-2. PMID: 11114441.Saraceni N, Kent P, Ng L, Campbell A, Straker L, O’Sullivan P. To Flex or Not to Flex? Is There a Relationship Between Lumbar Spine Flexion During Lifting and Low Back Pain? A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2020;50(3):121-130. doi:10.2519/jospt.2020.9218