Unique Ways Muscle IQ Helps Fix Low Back Pain

(Part 4 of a 4 Part Series)

Keywords:  Low Back Pain, Pain-Free Walking, Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmill, Huber Motion Labs, Pain Relief, Chronic Low Back Pain

Today’s blog is about the unique ways Muscle IQ helps to fix your low back pain. To begin I wanted to share a story.   I worked for 15 years in Pennsylvania for a great company. We had a wide variety of your typical physical therapy gym equipment. Several years ago I had the opportunity to open a new clinic, in a medium sized town, that was going to be competing against 20 other physical therapy clinics within a 10 mile radius.  I talked with my superiors and came up with a game plan to help this new clinic stand out. Not only did I want to provide great customer service and the best care, I also wanted something unique, to provide something better for my patients. My brother Howard, at that time, already had his Physical Therapy Clinic in Provo, Utah.  He owned three Alter-G Anti-gravity Treadmills.  Well, if he owned three I thought it would be a good start for this new clinic to start with just one.  It took a year to get it approved and we moved into the new space with our new treadmill. The patients loved it; especially the patients with low back pain.  The clinic was very successful and when I wanted to ask about getting a second one the discussion did not go very far. This piece of equipment was too expensive.  I could understand, sort of. If they bought another one for me then all the other clinics would get jealous and wonder why they couldn’t have one, too. They could not afford to buy 500 of these treadmills. That would have cost them over $20 million.

Now, several years later, I find myself working for my brother here at Muscle IQ, in Provo, Utah.  I love it here. I am surrounded by wonderful patients, a fun staff, and amazing equipment that is truly the best in the world.  We spare no expense. If it is going to help our patients then it is worth it. Two of the unique machines we have are the Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmills and the Huber Motion Lab machines.  Both of these machines are favorites of our patients with low back pain, and both machines deserve their own blog.  But, I’m going to focus today on why these machines are helpful in the rehabilitation of chronic low back pain.

Walking with Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmill Helps Low Back Pain

Many people with low back pain have pain with walking and running.  They are frustrated because they want to be active, but it hurts to walk.  They have stopped going to the gym. They have stopped going on hikes. For most of these people walking can be less painful if weight is taken off.  The muscles of the low back can be sore and painful with walking because of the forces generated during walking while holding 100% of your body weight.  Every muscle, even an injured muscle can tolerate a certain level of force. The goal with these high-tech treadmills is to find how much weight needs to be taken off before the back is pain-free while walking.  

We usually start the first time with 100% of their body weight and a slow pace.  We lower the weight incrementally and wait to see the response from the patient. It is fun to hear what they say when they finally see that it is possible for them to walk without all of their normal low back pain.  Walking is a great exercise when it is not painful.  Sometimes we have to take the body weight down to 50% before we see the pain go away.  We can go anywhere between 100% and 20% of your body weight in 1% increments. The goal with speed is to help return to a normal walking speed.  Over the course of their rehab program walking time and distance increase and the body weight is gradually increased back to 100%.


The Huber Motion Lab Machines help Low Back Pain

The Huber is not your typical exercise machine.  This state-of-the-art equipment sets the body in motion with an oscillating platform and mobile column.  You stand on a moving platform that rolls around underneath you while you push and pull on handles with your arms.    It gently and safely recruits the deep muscles of the lumbar spine which are often neglected by traditional physical exercise.  It helps improve strength, flexibility, coordination, posture and balance. The staff at Muscle IQ like to say it looks like “Dance, Dance, Revolution” machines.  The computer screen display prompts you to stand in very specific positions and push in different directions. It is like a game. You try to keep the correct amount of force so that you keep the green columns in the box.  The patient gets a score each time that lets them know how they did and it motivates them to keep trying to get a better score. Having these machines in our clinic gives our patients a great way to work on core strengthening that is engaging and fun.

I like to use scientific studies to back up whenever I am bragging about what we do at Muscle IQ.  There is a great research article on the National Institute of Health website that talks about the benefits of the Huber being used for back strengthening.  The summary says, “Feedback-based core resistance training with the Huber proved to be more effective in improving trunk muscle strength and leg power than the traditional Pilates training ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26036209 ).

These are not machines that patients have at home.  Using the Alter-G treadmill is like walking on the moon.  Patients with low back pain love having this tool to help them as they rehabilitate their lumbar spine.  The Huber is a fun and engaging exercise that helps target the core. I will discuss both of these machines more in future blogs.

My next blog will address the special needs of the Motor Vehicle Accident patient.


"Many people with low back pain have pain with walking and running.  They are frustrated because they want to be active, but it hurts to walk.  They have stopped going to the gym. They have stopped going on hikes... The goal with these high-tech treadmills is to find how much weight needs to be taken off before the back is pain-free while walking."

The Best Exercises for Low Back Pain!  Show Me The Numbers!

How can you tell whether an exercise is good for your low back pain?  What is the purpose of exercise? An exercise is good for low back pain if it does not cause more pain and if it leads to increased motion and strength in the areas that were measured to be limited.  If you have low back pain, you should be given exercises that are specific to the weakness that were found during examination. The right exercises will not be painful.  This is very important.  Pain during exercise can trigger muscles to be turned off.  The muscle tone can be inhibited by pain. Also, the exercises, when repeated, will lead to increased strength.  At Muscle IQ we can show you your progress because we measure your back muscle strength and we can show you the numbers.  No other physical therapy clinic in Utah County measures muscles like we do.

Should I Stop Rehab When the Pain Stops?

We discussed in an earlier blog that MRI results are not a good predictor of future episodes of low back pain.  We believe a good predictor of future low back pain is Muscle Strength.  So, it follows that you should focus your rehab efforts on returning to normal strength.  Strong muscles protect against re-injury and re-occurrence of low back pain. Once you reach normal strength you can maintain that level of strength with a Home Exercise Program.  You put yourself at a disadvantage if you cut your rehab short, before seeing a return to healthy strength levels for an injured low back.

Low Back Pain -  Muscle Strength Summary

A return of low back pain is all too common when someone has been through physical therapy..  Our goal at Muscle IQ is to reverse this trend. When back muscle strength is not measured fully you will not know where your true weakness are that are contributing to your pain and loss of function.  Every low back pain Rehab Program should include exercises that are not painful to perform and are specifically prescribed to the weaknesses found in the examination of the low back. A full recovery must include a restoration of normal muscle strength with test results as proof.  Rehab programs that are cut short before reaching normal muscle strength increases the likelihood of recurrence of low back pain episodes in the future. Stick to it. Don’t give up. With the right care, and a lot of effort on your part, you can achieve a pain-free low back.