Do you experience back pain?   I recently read a book that I would highly recommend!

Back Mechanic, The Step by Step McGill Method to Fix Back Pain, by Stuart McGill.

Actually, even if you have not experienced back pain, I would highly recommend that you read this book.  If you are looking for an owners manual for your back,  this is it!

Back Mechanic is based on over 3 decades of clinical and lab research done by Stuart McGill and his team at the University of Waterloo.  They have worked with and studied both elite athletes and regular people to better understand back mechanics and back pain using state of the art technology.

Stuart McGill has compacted his findings down to the most essential bits of information written for everybody to understand.  It gives the facts on the causes of back pain and the program to fix it.

Whether you have pain or not, once you understand your back better, you are better able to keep it healthy.  As a population, we continue to do everyday things in ways that we are causing unnecessary harm.  Once we know how, we can move with a strong stable core and perform the same task, in a strong, core strengthening way. If you understand what helps and hurts your back, taking care of it can become second nature.

What fitness instructors and health care providers are being taught is slowly being updated. But right now, there is a lot of misunderstanding.  Not every back exercise on YouTube is good for your back. This book gives good advice based on the latest research.

The Book:

Back Mechanic takes you on a journey to understand your back pain in 4 Parts:

Part 1:  “Why Me?” : Myth Busting and Understanding your back pain

Part 2:  Self assessment:  Finding your pain trigger and the cause of your back pain

Part 3:  The repair job:  How to use the right tools / movements to make activity pain-free

Once you understand why, you can change how you move.  Often only a slight change in a movement pattern, turns out to be easier and helpful for your back. You can spare it from damage.

Part 4:  “Tuning the Machine for Best Performance”

Take Aways of Advice:

Here are a few take aways of advice from this book that resonated with me:

#1  Walk every day:

Walking, when done with a good neutral posture, stiffening your core slightly, with your arms swinging freely from your shoulders will actually decompress the compressive forces on your spine!  If it hurts to walk, Stuart explains ways to build up your pain-free walking tolerance and endurance.

Let walking be your natural “Back Balm”.

#2 Practice good back hygiene:

Stuart’s “Non-negotiable Big 3 exercises” help you to build endurance with a neutral spine, in a position that is pain free for you. There are modifications to make it easier, to ensure you can maintain a good pain-free position.

If you do these 3 exercises in a 5 repetitions (reps), 3reps, 1 rep format, holding each for 10 seconds, it takes about 11 minutes. A very worthwhile 11 minutes in the day!

The exercises are:

  • the modified curl up,
  • side plank and
  • bird dog.

Here is a video link by Stuart himself.  Included in this video are the above 3 exercises.

A small adjustment in your form can make a world of difference in how it feels and how well you are building your core.

#3  Sneezing or coughing

If bending or flexing of your spine is a pain trigger for you, then standing and sneezing or coughing “upwards” is going to be much easier on your back and more comfortable.

“You only have so many forward bends in your back in a day” before your body’s healing cannot keep up with the repair work, and you experience pain.

#4  Be Mindful of how you move your body and what it is telling you as you move.

Stuart says it best, “Being mentally aware and engaged in our movement patterns is fundamental in creating pain-free posture and movement. Your success rests in your ability to move mindfully and to be conscious and aware of your movements. Be aware of your spine posture.  Eliminate painful postures.”

He guides you through a series of exercises (in chapter 7) that “will not only help in building that increased mindfulness, but also give you a variety of tools to use while creating a greater pain-free repertoire as you go about your daily routine.”

Everyone will find something beneficial and will appreciate the accessible nature of the book. It is well organized, and easy to read and reference.  It is packed full of useful nuggets and guidance that you can implement immediately and start to feel better.

If you have back pain, or know someone with back pain, or never want to have back pain in the future, read Back Mechanic by Stuart McGill. To purchase the book and for more information, go to Not only is the book, Back Mechanic, less expensive on than Amazon, there are also great videos and podcasts to watch for free under “resources” to help you further understand your back.

Whether your goal is to get rid of your back pain or keep it pain-free, we at Complete Wellness can also help you.  Our Holistic Nutritionist can guide you to better nutrition,  our Naturopath and Counselor can guide you to better health in all aspects of the word.  Our Chiropractors and our Registered Massage Therapists can help to give the hands-on guidance and manipulations to balance and align your body so it can heal itself, as it is designed to do.  Sometimes it takes a team approach, and you are the most important worker on that team to get yourself to better health and wellness.