EA 09: How To Get Rid Of Back Pain With Dr. Stuart McGill

Welcome to Everyday Athlete the podcast for the everyday athlete who wants to train smarter and live to be 100 years old. I am your host, Josh Kennedy. Today, I am talking to Dr. Stuart Mcgill, a world renowned back specialist and Professor of Spine Biomechanics at the University of Waterloo. He has a laboratory and clinic that explores lower back mechanics, injury mechanisms, rehabilitation protocols, and performance enhancement.

He is the author of numerous journals and papers, and his work has received numerous International awards. As a consultant, he has provided expertise on lower back injury to government agencies, corporations, and professional sports teams. He is the author of several books including Lower Back Disorders, Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, and Back Mechanic. Dr. McGill shares insight into reasons behind back pain and how to treat back conditions.

Today’s Topics Include:

  • McGill has recently left the University and now he is a consultant.
  • There are a lot of athletes and patients who have mysterious back pain.
  • In school, he discovered math and science, and then after visiting a spine biomechanics lab, he decided to get his Ph.D.
  • The scientific approach is different than the basic medical approach.
  • Assess the pain mechanism, then eliminate the precise cause, build a pain-free foundation for movement.
  • Back injuries set themselves up over time.
  • Adaptation – tissue becomes stronger up until the tipping point. Loading is good, but not too much or too little.
  • Build in appropriate rest to allow time for adaptation.
  • Prevention, train in cycles and be sure to have rest periods.
  • Practice better spine hygiene and use lumbar support.
  • Don’t try to progress too quickly during training.
  • Pavel and decompression after each lift.
  • Kettlebells and training only one side of the body.
  • Walking and loaded carries would be a wise progression.
  • Go for a walk and reset disc stress from sitting by going for a walk.
  • Assess the demands of the sport.
  • Assess your abilities compared to those demands.
  • Train to make up the difference.
  • Without the appropriate neural wisdom, injuries can happen.
  • The best athletes have plosive strength.
  • Activated muscle creates muscle force.
  • Faster pulses and faster muscles create relaxation and speed.
  • Hip hinges and pulses in kettlebell swings.
  • Power breathing, spine stability, and athletic performance.
  • Training to stop motion with the core creates core strength and stability.
  • Carries are a great way to build strong obliques.
  • Sit ups can create back pain for soldiers. Planks may be safer core training for the back.
  • Training for mental toughness in the military.
  • Sex and spinal pain. There are motions and pain triggers that clinicians can use to help avoid injuries.

Links and resources:


“There is a reason for back pain, it is just a matter of assessing it.” Dr. Stuart McGill

“I get to interpret patients through this scientific method and then the work helps my laboratory analysis.” Dr. Stuart McGill

“Every patient has something to teach you.” Dr. Stuart McGill


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