Ep 30: Gift Of Injury: The Strength Athlete’s Guide To Recovering From Back Injury With Dr Stuart McGill

Dr. Stuart McGill is the man who restores very difficult backs. He is a professor emeritus, University of Waterloo, where he was a professor for 32 years. He conducted laboratory and experimental research into the causal mechanisms that cause back pain. His work has resulted in books, products, courses, over 240 peer-reviewed scientific journal papers, textbooks, and the answers to fixing back problems and pain. He has mentored graduate students and taught thousands of clinicians and practitioners.

He is the Chief Scientific Officer for Backfitpro Inc. where all products offered have been tested in his laboratory. He has helped elite athletes and everyone in between. His website is full of testimonials from people he has helped including actor Ed O’Neill from Modern Family, and father of Kettlebell workouts Pavel Tsatsouline. He is here today to talk about his new book Gift of Injury: The strength athlete’s guide to recovering from back injury to winning again which he co-authored with powerlifter Brian Carroll.

Today’s topics include:

  • McGill shares his love of researching and understanding everything about the spine and rehabilitating it.
  • He focuses on the very difficult cases and in helping elite athletes.
  • His whole history has been driven by sport and performance.
  • McGill loves the application of fitness and strength and working with elite athletes and understanding how to tune their bodies a little more to unleash their athleticism and unload the history of back pain.
  • The challenge of helping MMA fighters with not locking up their bodies when heading into the fight. They need to control the fear and unleash their bodies.
  • Their is a full spectrum of challenges with optimum athleticism for competitive fighters and martial artists.
  • How typical medical practice doesn’t access pain. The story of Brian Carroll’s injury and how having pain was compromising his entire life.
  • In Gift of Injury they tell the story of how Dr. McGill helped Brian Carroll come back from his injury and begin winning again.
  • Moving in ways that don’t respect the injury and the pain mechanism.
  • The examination begins with an interview in Dr. McGill’s house where his laboratory is now. He pays attention because he has to coach these people through movement patterns.
  • It’s an exercise in pattern recognition.
  • It’s about understanding the mechanism of pain and then doing the opposite to take the pain away.
  • Nothing can be interpreted without examining the person at the start.
  • Brian Carroll’s injuries were more extensive than he thought.
  • They followed Dr. McGill’s plan to get Brian out of pain.
  • Athletic training and getting out of pain can’t be mixed.
  • Then they made a plan to make Brian’s body so robust he was able to lift and compete again.
  • The technique of pain provocation.
  • How there is no such pain as back pain. There is something that determines the mechanism of the back pain.
  • Nonspecific back pain doesn’t exist. Find the pain mechanism and the differential diagnosis. Get through the list and systematically probe the pain and find reactions to different things and find what causes pain.
  • How the role of the strength and conditioning coach is important for keeping injuries down.
  • They purposely stress tissues to see what is causing the pain.
  • Then they choose a strategy of movement that doesn’t irritate the pain and then they find a foundation of exercises to build up the body.
  • All biological systems have a tipping point. Find where that is in a person.
  • Neural adaptations take place while training and make the system wiser.
  • Tissue adaptations only take place during rest.
  • When bone is stressed it builds a charge which creates the basic building blocks of bone, but the bone needs rest after being stressed.
  • They also used bone therapy with Brian where they would load his spine and then have 5 days of rest.
  • Superior exercises for building support of the spine.
  • The question of should you stretch? Can you enhance performance by tightening the muscle?


Links and resources:


“For 32 years, I ran the laboratory at the university and my love was to understand how the spine system works, and how it becomes painful and injured, and what are the best ways to rehabilitate it.” Dr. Stuart McGill

“I don’t see the average back pain case. I’m not interested in that. I’m very interested in the difficult cases. Those are the cases where people are very disabled by their pains.” Dr. Stuart McGill

“In the upper spectrum, I am interested in the elite athletes, and what they can do to pull out incredible performance from their bodies from a very back centric point of view.” Dr. Stuart McGill

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

FREE Digital Download 

The High-Performance Handbook

for Everyday Athletes Over 30

Learn the world's most effective training system for people over 30 who want to look better, feel better, and perform better.

No thanks, I don't want perform better.

FREE Digital Download 

Thirty Workouts for People 30+

Enter your details below and we’ll send you thirty proven workouts of wildly successful everyday athletes over 30!

No thanks, I don't want perform better.
Workouts for people 30+
Scroll to Top