If you’ve ever suffered from back pain, you know just how frustrating and debilitating it can be. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “About 80 percent of adults will experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes.”
There’s no universal prescription to alleviating back pain, but there are a few things that can help. In the book Back Mechanic, Stuart McGill, PhD, MSc, world-renowned professor of spine biomechanics, said to avoid exercises like crunches and instead focus on core strengthening and stabilizing exercises.
Another pain-reducing exercise you can do is hanging. Now, you can’t just hang from any object, which is why we spoke to Beth Terranova, DPT, CSCS, orthopedic clinical therapist, Schroth-certified therapist at NYU Langone Orthopedic Center about the benefits of hanging for back pain and how to properly do it. “I had training in the Schroth method, which is specific for scoliosis, and they use hanging as a way to loosen up the soft tissue and to give a little bit of traction on the spine in order to prepare for other exercises,” Beth told POPSUGAR.
“I found that even my patients who don’t have scoliosis tend to like hanging because it almost kind of reverses the effect of gravity in a way,” she said. Beth explained that throughout the day we’re getting pushed down by gravity and hanging counteracts the pressure that has accumulated over the course of the day.
If you’re experiencing back pain, this is definitely a simple exercise you can try. Beth did advise, “People who have back pain with peripheral symptoms, meaning they’re having pain radiating down their leg or they’ve developed some weakness in their leg” should avoid this technique and contact a physician. If you have more centralized back pain, Beth said your back will more than likely respond well to this technique.
As far as your form is concerned, begin by hanging from a pull-up bar (you can place a box underneath your feet for support) or another stable object designed for hanging at your gym. Beth said you should be relaxed and avoid going into a “very extended position.” Make sure that your ribs are aligned over your pelvis and engage your core to prevent your back from arching too much. Try doing three sets of 10-second hangs.