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How to Do the McKenzie Upward Dog Exercise for Back Pain

Learn how to do the McKenzie Upward Dog exercise from physical therapist Eric Sampson in this Howcast video.


I want to spend a couple of moments now talking about probably the most popular exercise in the physical therapy office for treating back problems associated with disc protrusions, and bulges, and herniations, and that's called the McKenzie extension in lying or sometimes called the upward dog. Now there are some differences between the upward dog and the extension in lying. The big one being that when you're pressing up on your hands you're really going to try to focus on making sure the stomach muscles are relaxed, and come on back down, as opposed to being tightened up.

A lot of times in the yoga class you're going to be tightening up your stomach muscles or your back muscles in order to achieve the end range. In this case you're going to be pressing up on your hands and trying to keep everything very passive down there. So, it's all the way up on your hands, and then all the way back down flat again.

And trying to keep everything relaxed in this area. In order to do that you're going to allow the discs to push a little bit harder back into their spaces and you're going to allow the joints to settle into their neutral position. So it really helps to decrease back pain especially early on in a rehab setting. You sometimes then will move on to more strenuous exercises from there. And that's called the extension in lying.

So, there are a couple of different ways to do the exercise. One way to do it is to kind of press all the way up on your hands and then come right back down flat again, and then repeat over and over, three, four, five, six times. Once the spine has been stretched out a bit you can probably hold the pose a little bit longer.

So, sort of press all the way up again. Good, and take a nice deep breath in and out. Correct.

So, then you can sort of relax it back even further, but you wouldn't use that approach until you've already stretched it four, five, six times in more of a repetition style.

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