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How do the getback devices work? # 4 The Lumbar / Thoracic Lateral Flexion Device

Musculoskeletal disorders are the biggest cause of disability. Despite the billions spent, the problem is just getting worse. Latest medical guidelines strongly recommend exercise therapy as the first-line-treatment for musculoskeletal disorders instead of much more expensive surgeries.

By Jack Mason, Physiotherapist at getback

getback™ devices were developed by Biomechanists and Exercise Scientists to enable targeted and safe exercise for the deep spinal muscles (multifidus) associated with back or neck pain.

In a series of articles, we will look at the specific function of each of the six getback devices.

# 4 The Lumbar / Thoracic Lateral Flexion Device

Another frequent presentation at getback is patients with back pain made worse by activities that include bending sideways, such as bending to pick objects off the ground or reaching items to the front or side of the body. 

The ability to bend our spine sideways is frequently used in combination with other movements for activities like gardening and housework, often making pain and stiffness in this direction severely impairing.

The Lateral Flexion Device is a crucial component of the getback programme for people with back pain. By isolating the movement of side bending (lateral flexion), the device can assess the strength of the muscles responsible and gradually strengthen them with pain-free side to side movement.

When a person initiates sideways bending, the deep stabilising muscles activate to control the spine in preparation for movement. As the bending continues, surrounding intermediate and superficial muscles contract to control this sideways motion against gravity, then bring us back to an upright position.

A reduction in strength of sideways movement is a frequently found among those with pain, stiffness and spasm in the back. An assessment by your therapist will identify if there is a lack of strength and lateral flexion movement in comparison to the average for people of the same age, weight, height and gender. 

Your individual getback programme will aim to achieve this normal range to advance your spinal health and long term pain reduction.

How does the lateral flexion device strengthen the multifidus?

Weakness of the deep, spinal stabilising muscles (multifidus) is compensated for by over-recruiting the superficial back muscles. 

To specifically target the multifidus in the back, the device disengages the surrounding superficial muscles to prevent them helping with the exercise, ensuring movement is coming solely from the torso. This is achieved by the unique design of the device that include pads fixing the hips and shoulders in place while executing the movement.

Setting your individual programme on the device

In the Initial Consultation, your supervising therapist will pinpoint the pattern of your pain by collecting relevant information to your pain. You will be asked questions including: Where is your pain worse? Is your pain constant or intermittent? Is your pain worse when you bend your back forward, back or sideways?

Your therapist will then utilise the device to obtain a comprehensive assessment of your deep spinal muscles, collecting data on your mobility, movement control, strength and endurance.

The results of this assessment will guide the practitioner in setting an individualised programme that customises how far you move, repetition speed and load to ensure that the exercise you are performing is safe and comfortable. The exercise will be gentle to begin with; focusing on targeting multifidus activity and generating smooth movement. 

Isolating the torso and removing any contribution from the neck or hips promotes segmental movement of the spine – specifically targeting the small, deep stabilisers that sit between each of the spinal segments.

Feedback is very important – so at the conclusion of every set the device tells you how well you performed against the allocated parameters. It will also collect your feedback rating the intensity of the exercise just performed. This allows us to confirm you are working in a safe range before progressively increasing aspects of your programme.