bigstock-young-woman-doing-exercises-wi-29510126Elliptical machines, or elliptical cross trainers, can aggravate back pain in some people, particularly in certain cases of herniated discs.


In a specific study, by one of the most recognised doctors in the field of low back pain, Stuart McGill, which demonstrates the wide ranging differences between walking on the floor, or on a normal treadmill, and the elliptical machine.


Today, I received a message from a reader asking if I would recommend using these machines with the lumbar support. Look! I do in fact read your posts so, whenever you have questions please do post them in the comments!


So what were the scientists researching in the study that I mentioned above?


The study involved 43 men between 19 and 30 years who were asked to exercise on the elliptical machine at a rate chosen by them, and then increased by 30%.


Most individuals would wind up in a slightly flexed, or bent, position regardless of where they were placing their hands or the rate at which they were going. A bent posture does not go well with many back problems, particularly with conditions where herniated discs are involved.


Also, it makes the spine twist, creating less side to side movement, which activates a major muscle, the quadratus lumborum.


But this doesn’t mean that it is bad for everyone. Incorporating some bending may help those afflicted with lumbar hyperlordosis, an extreme concave curve in the lower back.


Conclusion: What should I do?


Well, before I make any suggestions, I recommend consulting your doctor before anything.


If you’re not sure what to do after asking the doctor: try it. Do not buy the equipment before having used it for at least a month or two, regularly -2 times a week or more, and determine if it is helping you.


Using the back support can make a difference for some people (the study did not include back support on the machines, but the support wouldn’t dramatically change your posture). Considering that a chair has a supportive back, and most people still have difficulty sitting correctly -the back on the elliptical will not necessarily help.

The elliptical machine can be an excellent exercise if used properly, if it does not cause pain and you enjoy it, then I see no reason to prevent its use.


Please keep in mind that you should compliment it with these general stretching and strengthening exercises to keep the whole body balanced, strong and flexible.