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Back Pain Exercises – The One Legged Curl-up

November 22, 2010

This is the final back pain exercise in a series of four.  As with any of these exercises, here are a couple of things to note:

  • If you currently have back pain, do not start these exercises.  Although movement and exercise are important factors in recovery, it can set up a bad pattern.  As well, if you start to feel pain while doing the exercises, then stop.  Your body is telling you that it isn’t ready for them, you’re doing too much too soon, or you’re doing them wrong.  Whatever the case is, it’s best to see a health professional familiar with these exercises.
  • Remember that this exercise incorporates the main principles of healthy back exercises set out in Low Back Pain – Exercise Principles.

Previously I’ve written that crunches should be avoided (Low Back Pain – Prevention 2) and I stand by that.  Today, however, I’m introducing a crunching type motion with some modifications so that, when performed properly, it will put far less stress on the low back than a traditional crunch.

Here we go.  Start by lying down on your back in a traditional crunch position with your knees up at about 45 degrees and feet on the floor.  Next, take one leg and lie it flat on the floor (this simple modification will greatly reduce the stress on your low back when doing the exercise).  Take your hands and place them underneath the small of your back so that your finger tips are just touching.  Lying like this, your spine should be in its neutral position and your fingers will act as a gauge to make sure it stays as such.

Now for the actual motion.  Your head, neck, and shoulders should move as one unit to raise your shoulder blades about an inch or two up, off the floor and then back down (it’s less movement than a full crunch and definitely less than a sit-up).  As you perform this motion your low back should stay in its neutral position (it should not round out and press down towards the floor).  This is where the fingers come in:   there should be no change in the pressure felt by your fingers from your back throughout the curl-up.  If you feel the increasing pressure of your back on your fingers it means that you’re either lifting up too high, or you’re tilting your pelvis down towards the floor (either will bring you away from neutral and place more stress and pressure on the low back).


Try it for five to ten curl-ups with one leg down and then switch and try it with the other leg down.

A few more things to note:

  • As the above figures indicate, this is a much more subtle motion than a regular crunch.  Don’t compromise your form by curling up too high.
  • Some people find that having their hands underneath their back can cause stress on the shoulders.  If that’s the case then you can either leave them just lying flat beside you or you can hold them up next to your ears (but don’t use your hands to hold up your head).
  • This can also be a challenging exercise for the neck.  Start slowly and don’t do too many repetitions at once.  If your neck starts to hurt, stop doing the exercise and seek assistance from a health professional.

For more information on exercise and back pain relief you can contact your Guelph Chiropractor at Clear Path Chiropractic Health Centre in Guelph Ontario.

2 Comments
  1. Going to do this RIGHT NOW!!! Merci!

    • Thanks for the comment. This exercise along with the others I’ve posted about are great for promoting spinal stability. As I’ve emphasized above, good form is key.

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