Over 2 million people shared a story on Facebook entitled “7 Stretches in 7 Minutes for Complete Lower Back Pain Relief” reproduced, verbatim, on a half dozen websites. The article, which was not much of an article, simply lists seven stretches and implies that these exercises will completely relieve lower back pain in just 7 minutes a day.
Like with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The author of the original “7 Stretches in 7 Minutes for Complete Lower Back Pain Relief” article included a citation, reference, or link that would substantiate the claim. We will pick up where the author left off.
Can 7 minutes of stretching really completely relieve lower back pain?
Perhaps, but it unlikely that the casual reader with low back pain would receive any benefit from the exercises listed in the article.
Does the person have acute, subacute, or chronic lower back pain? Sometimes reduced activity is better than aggressive stretching. On the other hand, some activity is better than bed rest.
Is the back pain due to a single trauma or to a chronic degenerative condition? Does the person normally have a very low degree of loading on the spine, a high degree of loading, or somewhere in the middle? The exercises that one does to relieve lower back pain may change depending on these circumstances.5
What exercises should a good lower back pain exercise regimen contain?
After compiling the results of 72 different treatment regimens,6 researchers determined that the most effect lower back pain exercise regimen for a person with lower back pain should contain all of the following elements:
- It should contain strengthening exercises
- It should contain stretching exercises
- The exercise regimen should be supervised
- The exercise regimen should be individualized to the patient
So, the claim that there are “7 Stretches in 7 Minutes for Complete Lower Back Pain Relief” is almost certainly untrue.
No exercise for people with “red flag” pain
If someone has “red flag” back pain such as numbness and/or tingling in the extremities, loss of bowel or bladder control, fever, or other sign of a serious problem, stretching exercises are the wrong thing to do. In fact, prompt medical attention is the right thing to do instead of “7 Simple” anything.
The Bottom Line
Be cautious of unsubstantiated back pain advice you read on Facebook. (But you knew that already.)
- Brennan GP, Fritz JM, Hunter SJ, Thackeray A, Delitto A, Erhard RE. Identifying subgroups of patients with acute/subacute “nonspecific” low back pain: results of a randomized clinical trial. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). Mar 15 2006;31(6):623-631. doi:10.1097/01.brs.0000202807.72292.a8
- Fritz JM, Delitto A, Erhard RE. Comparison of classification-based physical therapy with therapy based on clinical practice guidelines for patients with acute low back pain: a randomized clinical trial. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). Jul 1 2003;28(13):1363-1371; discussion 1372. doi:10.1097/01.brs.0000067115.61673.ff
- Long A, Donelson R, Fung T. Does it matter which exercise? A randomized control trial of exercise for low back pain. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). Dec 1 2004;29(23):2593-2602.
- Machado LA, Maher CG, Herbert RD, Clare H, McAuley JH. The effectiveness of the McKenzie method in addition to first-line care for acute low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Med. 2010;8:10. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-8-10
- Videman T, Nurminen M, Troup JD. 1990 Volvo Award in clinical sciences. Lumbar spinal pathology in cadaveric material in relation to history of back pain, occupation, and physical loading. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). Aug 1990;15(8):728-740.
- Hayden JA, van Tulder MW, Tomlinson G. Systematic review: strategies for using exercise therapy to improve outcomes in chronic low back pain. Ann Intern Med. May 3 2005;142(9):776-785.