Doing exercise rehab for low back pain..

Fat Workout Lady Isolated on WhiteI started an exercise rehab program for low back pain a few weeks ago.

Because of that, I’ve needed all the patience I can muster to stick to the program. Both things make it very relevant to my happiness project and especially two of my September resolutions – “Get relief from pain” and “Act enthusiastic”.

I started the program because I had a nagging pain in my low back that didn’t go away, on top of my usual neck and shoulder pains.  I guess I was finally sane (or mad)  enough to stop ignoring my pains and aches and decided it’s time to go to the roots of my problem instead. 🙂

Because I’m definitely not able to design a corrective exercise program myself, I found a low back rehab program called S.M.S Low Back Program from the guys who designed the H.E.M Ankle Rehab program I used two years ago to heal my sprained ankle (I haven’t sprained my ankle even once after that, which is pretty amazing because I used to be a habitual ankle sprainer).

Scott Malin designed three programs that fix the underlying posture distortions that are usually at the root of low back pain. It means it strengthens  and activates the weak and underused muscles and stretch/relax the tight and overused muscles. Because I have a classic kyphotic posture, I follow an exercise rehab program to fix kyphotic posture.


Where does the need for patience come from?

Well, it usually takes me at least 1,5 hours to go through the program and there are no fun and challenging moves like there is in Rachel Cosgrove’s FBB program (which takes max one hour for me to complete, usually 45 minutes) that I used to follow.

The SMS Low Back Program starts with 20 minutes of foam rolling to work away the kinks in the muscles. After that I do a set of dynamic stretches, which usually takes me at least another 20 minutes, so it takes me almost 45 minutes to get to the actual strengthening exercises. 🙂

working on adductor magnus

Working the kinks on adductor magnus

The strengthening exercises aren’t anything special. I’ve done many of them as part of other programs – there are several exercises to strengthen the glutes (like clams, wall sits etc) and the core (superman and planks), and exercises to strengthen the upper back (pulls etc). Does the program stop there? Nope. After the exercises it’s time to finish with static stretches. 🙂

The funny thing is that I’m almost as sweaty as I am when I do Cosgrove’s FBB program, which involves lots of dynamic exercises, jumps etc.

So, even though I’ve managed to stick to the program so far I haven’t been exactly enthusiastic about it. Because of my resolution to act more enthusiastic,  I paid particular attention to what was going through my mind the last time I did it.

Sure enough, about every other thought that crossed my mind was something like this:  “This is so boring and takes way too much time”, “Oh no, not one of those adductor stretches again, I hate them”. Thinking like that certainly doesn’t contribute to the experience. So now I’ve resolved to pay more attention to my actual sensations and experience of doing the exercises from now on.

I’m pretty sure that if I stick to it, I might even be able to transform my experience of the program. The same way I have learned to enjoy many exercises I first hated.


The problem isn’t that the program doesn’t work. It seems to work very well.

I can feel how much better aligned my knees, hips and upper back are after even a single workout (thanks to diligent foam rolling that works out the muscle kinks). So if I stick to the program long enough (several months I think), I might get rid of the pains in low back and also in my upper back and neck.

Another thing I hope this program helps me with is my inability to do push ups and other exercises that put a lot of load on the muscles of my upper back. Merely muscling my way through strength training programs hasn’t been enough to accomplish that.


  1. Marion says:

    Hi Satu, Well, you are definitely not the only one with these issues. On any given day at the gym, far more than half of the people in the gym have posture/back issues. The number is stunning. There are actually very few people I know with really strong backs. So I’m sure this topic will be of interest to your readers.

    For women, the exercises steered toward us don’t tend to make backs strong. I know so very many women who are great runners but have poor back posture. They don’t do any back weight training whatsoever. They hardly do any upper body exercises at all. That is part of the cultural stereotypes of women of not being very strong for upper body. So the exercises are geared for lower body, except that without upper body strength, women develop back problems. We have to buck the stereotypes and get our backs strong.

    I personally do NOT like the exercises that I’m terrible at. Also, the exercises I tend to be “bored” with are ones I need to do. We all tend to resist our weakest link of exercise. Just knowing that makes me force myself to do them–because like you explain, those exercises we don’t like help us do the exercises we really want to do, like pushups. I always think of this as: You must make the fitness cake with all of its necessary ingredients before you get the fitness frosting.

    Good luck on this. Be persistent, even if you only have time to do half of the program on some days. I did watch a short video at the link. It looks like an excellent program. 😀

    • Satu says:

      Hi Marion! I think I should make a fitspiration graphic out of that fitness cake / frosting concept 🙂

      Yes, people’s backs usually aren’t their priorities and there are still lots of people who believe crunches are the way to go if they want to have six pack abs! I was pretty surprised when I found out that the problem starts with weak glutes.

      I think I’m going to do only the foamrolling part of the workout on days I don’t have the energy to do the whole program.

  2. Wow, 90min… that’s a long time but, it’s excellent that you’re already starting to feel the benefits. I guess you can listen to music you like etc at the same time – or once you know the routine you could do it in front of the TV or something.

    Like Marion, I used to hate exercises that I am / was bad at and I guess that’s a sign you need them!

    Keen to hear if your lower back improves.


    • Satu says:

      Hi Deb!
      My low back is a lot better already. I just hope I will have enough energy and persistence to finish the program so that my low back / neck problems would stop haunting me.

      I have discovered that I often start liking exercises I originally hated. I think it’s because I develop a “special relationship” to the exercises and it feels so great when I eventually get better. 🙂

  3. Linda says:

    You are so cool Satu! My right arm still has tennis elbow and like you, I am still forcing myself to do my regular daily routine and it is helping but it sure is not 90 minutes either! I hope you will continue to see an improvement!!

    • Satu says:

      Hi Linda! It’s surprisingly hard to stick to exercise rehab program even if you know it’s good for you. 🙂 When my neck pains were very bad years ago, I had difficulty following the programs physical therapists had designed me.. I started taking them seriously only when my pains got bad enough!

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