A Solution for Chronic Neck and Back Pain
neck and back pain often result from, or at least has a component of,
weakness or injury involving the muscles that support and stabilize the
spine. The paraspinal muscles act as “shock absorbers” or stabilizers
of the spine. Without them, our bodies would collapse to the ground.
When they are weak, they are less able to do the job of supporting the
When a muscle is weak, it must work that much harder
to do its normal job. This also means that it is more likely to tire or
fatigue more quickly. When a muscle fatigues, though, it doesn’t “roll
over and play dead.” It begins to tighten up and cramp. (This is one
reason why athletes tend to cramp later in an athletic event.) The
tightening (also known as "hypertonicity") starts to cause pain, most
commonly a deep aching or burning type of pain that is spread out over
an area. A tight muscle also begins to restrict flexibility and range
problem with the neck and low back, however, is that it is very
difficult to isolate these muscles for testing or strengthening. And if
you can’t isolate a muscle, it will be very difficult to strengthen it,
or even to measure how strong or weak it is. With one exception, there
is no exercise machine, physical therapy program, or testing equipment
that is capable of isolating the muscles of the neck or low back—though
many claim they do!
Jones, the inventor of the famous Nautilus® system of exercise
machines, recognized this problem. He realized that, unless you are
able to restrict the motion of other parts of the body, other muscles
will be recruited when trying to do neck or back strengthening
exercises, and you will not be able to target the specific neck or back
After years of research and plain old trial and error, Jones developed the MedX medical machines.
The MedX medical machines have proven to be the only systems in the
world capable of completely isolating the neck and low back muscles,
both for testing strength and for rehabilitation.
is the MedX’s unique restraint mechanisms that restrict movement
everywhere except the neck or low back. This allows only the cervical
or lumbar paraspinal muscles to be isolated and exercised.
The MedX Rehabilitation Protocol
initially undergo a strength evaluation on either the cervical or
lumbar machine. The test will tell not only how strong you are, but
also how you compare with other people your same age and size. The test
also gives objective range of motion measurements.
other back testing machines that involve constant movement, the MedX
test is a static isometric test. That means no movement is occurring
during the actual strength test. This is a safer and far more accurate
way to measure maximum muscle strength. The machine is set in a
particular position and locked. The patient is then asked to start
pushing back gently against the pad, slowly building up effort over 3
seconds to a maximum contraction, then gently relaxing. The back or
head rest is then repositioned to the next testing angle and the
procedure repeated. A strain gauge inside the machine measures how hard
you push, and at the end of the test a computer prints out a curve
showing your strength and range of motion.
If the test
results indicate weakness, and your doctor determines that the MedX is
an appropriate treatment, the rehab program begins at the next visit.
Rehabilitation is divided into 4-week segments, and an effective
treatment program usually requires at least 2, and sometime 3, segments
Treatment sessions during the first 4 weeks
are twice a week for 6 sessions, followed by a re-test on the 7th
session. During the next 4-8 weeks, low back treatments are dropped
down to once a week, but the cervical treatments must continue twice
weekly. Testing is repeated at 4-week intervals to document progress.
is nothing more than carefully controlled weight training, and in this
sense the MedX is a very elaborate computerized weight lifting machine
that isolates the neck or low back muscles.
the MedX is the only effective way effectively to isolate and
strengthen the neck or low back muscles, you can maintain your gains
through a simple home exercise program.
The most effective
low back maintenance involves using a back extension machine (see
photo). Many gyms and health clubs have these or similar. They also
cost under $200 and so are affordable to for home purchase. Another option is to use a large fitness ball, as shown below.
key with both exercises is do not squeeze or tighten your buttocks
muscles! Squeezing or tightening the buttocks muscles takes the focus
off the low back muscles. You’ll strengthen your butt, not your back!
To keep your buttocks relaxed, think about forcing out a bowel
movement—you can’t force a BM and tighten your butt at the same time.
(I know it sounds gross, but it works!) Also, be careful not to arch
your back backwards beyond neutral. You want to extend your back, not
maintaining neck strength after MedX rehabilitation, your physical
therapist can provide an exercise device known as the Synergy® system.
It consists of a head strap that attaches around the head, and a
resistance exercise band that clips to the various plastic rings
attached to the head strap (see photos).
MedX has a strong body of research to support its effectiveness. In one
study, over 900 patients with at least 2-year of chronic low back pain
were studied. On average these people had tried and failed six prior
treatment approaches, including physical therapy, injections, and
surgery. They suffered from sprains & strains, disc disease, and
They underwent MedX rehabilitation for 12 weeks.
At the end of the program, 76% reported that their improvement was
“good” or “excellent.” They were then instructed in a home exercise
program using the back extension machine shown above. After one year,
95% were still doing well.
MedX program can be very effective in helping to evaluate and treat
chronic neck and back pain. But it is not for everyone. Talk to your
doctor to see if the MedX program is right for you.