The Ultimate Guide To "Low Back" Pain (STU MCGILL MISSED THIS!)

 By  Shane Dowd , CES, CMP


Wanna'  know a fun (OK, horrifying) statistic?

According to scientific estimates, 80% of ALL Americans WILL have back pain in their lives.

Yup. That's NOT good news.

That means 8 out of 10 people you know will have a stiff, painful back at some point. Yikes! But if these injuries are so common, we should be good at fixing them...right?

After all, the “establishment” (chiropractic, physical therapy, surgery, etc) should have this figured out by now...right?

Unfortunately, this is usually NOT the case. Many therapies/treatments offer some symptom relief, but most are not comprehensive enough to get to the root cause. So, most back pain and people’s injuries continue to come back again and again.

 This was definitely the case for me. In 2011, I injured my back while lifting weights in the gym. 

 I was so broken that I could not put on my own socks and shoes for a month. In fact, I was having my girlfriend do it for me. 

This was not my first back injury, but I was determined to make it my last. In my efforts to fix myself, I read and experimented with a wide variety of modalities. One of the best resources I found was a spine researcher named “Dr. Stuart McGill.” 

Dr. Stuart McGill is a spine biomechanics researcher at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He has dedicated his career to understanding how the spine functions and why back problems occur. He’s published four books on the subject:

  • Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance
  • Low Back Disorders
  • Back Mechanic, and
  • Gift of Injury.

While Stu's books are considered the best in the field (and I greatly benefitted from them), I still found them missing something important...

Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance: What Was Great (and What Was Missing).

Before I talk about what was missing, I want to tell you what the big takeaways are. 

My biggest takeaways from the book were:

  • Most back pain approaches are incorrect or flawed.
  • Core endurance/intelligence is important for low-back health
  • Hip mobility is also critically important
  • Certain “core exercises” are actually very damaging to the
  • Back injuries are rarely “death sentences” or life-long
  • The spine is least likely to get injured when it has an optimal
  • “Super Stiffness” is superior to “drawing in” or “hollowing” for
    spine stability
  • Each person’s body has a tolerance for load – go over the
    tolerance, and get hurt.
  • Careful evaluation and programming for an athlete can injury-proof the lower back.

Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance is over 300 pages long and is extremely comprehensive. 

While quite thorough, some of the information may be too technical for the average reader. 

That said, it's a great resource for people dealing with back pain (especially athletes). But it was still missing one MASSIVE ingredient I mentioned. By the way, this ingredient is also missing from 99% of all physical therapy and chiropractic protocols.

The Magic Ingredient That Fixed My Back For Good 

The missing ingredient was targeted tissue work.

I learned it from a “hole-in-the-wall” chiropractor named Phil Petachenko, and I am eternally grateful to him.

Phil has over 35+ years of hands-on experience healing people via deep muscle massage.    

 Phil is a unique man who:

  • Only works 2-4 days per week
  • Does several HOURS of self-massage on his own body
    each week.
  • Spends a lot of time on spiritual retreats.

For 35+ years, he has done zero advertising AND maintained a fully booked practice with a long waiting list. 

Why? Because he's the real deal.

Phil taught me what REAL “self-myofascial release” was.

These techniques were NOT the simple foam rolling I learned in my personal trainer courses or massage therapy classes. They went much deeper.

Phil literally gave me the tools and skills to remove my back pain instantly, with pinpoint accuracy.

After I started incorporating targeted tissue work, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. It was like I could see the entire picture for the first time in my life: how backs get hurt, what keeps them in pain, and how to fix them. 

This "big picture" of fixing back pain includes my TSR System and Pillars of Progress. 

What I Did To Fix My Back Pain


I took the key ingredients I learned from Phil and Stu and integrated them into my "Pillars of Progress." 

Each one of these pillars helped to accelerate my results 2-3x faster than before. 

Here is specifically what I did:

Targeted Tissue Work:

I did targeted tissue work every day on my lumbar spine muscles, psoas, hips, ankles, and more.


Specific Stretching: 

I mobilized and stretched the various muscles and tissues that had become tight and overactive. 

For example, I stretched and rolled my hip flexors with barbells, kettlebells, and other tools. Tight hip flexors cause anterior pelvic tilt, which causes an over-arched back (AKA hyperlordosis). This places extra strain on the spine during exercise and daily life.

Intelligent Strength Training:

Instead of “gung-ho”/max-effort weightlifting, I started focusing on perfecting my movement patterns. 

Before adding more weight, I strengthened muscles that had become underactive and lazy. For example, the lower abdominals and glutes help prevent anterior pelvic tilt by pulling the pelvis posteriorly. This helped my back feel better and my hips not to pinch or impinge. 

I kept a stiff core and neutral spine whenever I exercised or carried heavy objects. When the spine is under load, it is less stressed in a neutral position, which means when the vertebrae are aligned in a natural posture. With this braced, neutral spine, I used my legs to pick something up.

Core & Glute Re-Awakening:

I improved the motor control and endurance of my core and glutes. After my core/glutes were "smarter" and had better endurance, THEN I added strength.

Low endurance leads to fatigue. Fatigue leads to weak muscles. When your core muscles are fatigued, you can’t keep a straight back. Thus your spine is more likely to become injured when put under stress. Being able to hold a plank, side plank, or other core stability exercises is what I do now. 

Strict “Perfect Technique” Policy: 

I recognized my limits and didn’t abuse my body. AND I modified my training (see video above).

Stress your body enough, and it will grow and adapt. Stress it beyond that, and it will become injured and sick. The same principle applies to your spine. Neither perform work that is too heavy or extreme nor perform too little work.  It's "The Goldilocks Principle"...just enough! You should do just enough, so you don't do harm but get stronger at the same time.

Move more:

I walked more and sat less. Sitting seems to place more strain on the spine. Sit less, and your back will thank you.
Walking also seems to be beneficial in the fact that it acts as a gentle exercise for your spine. Whenever my low back would act up, I’d go for a 1-2 mile walk and feel great after.    


The Simple System to Fix Your Back Pain


In a nutshell, the system to fix back pain is:

  • STEP 1: Restore Tissue Quality (Tissue Work)
  • STEP 2: Improve Range of Motion (Stretching)
  • STEP 3: Build Strength & Stability (Re-Education)

I’m happy to say that since 2011, my back pain has never returned. 

Having been so fragile at one point that even bending over the sink was excruciating, I can't tell you how much relief I now feel. When I was 26 and in pain every day, I thought life was over.  

Now, 10+ years later (and feeling great), I know life is just getting started. I never thought it was possible to be 10 years older AND be stronger, more flexible, and pain-free...but "the proof's in the pudding!" 


Every day, I run, jump, stretch, and lift heavy weights pain-free. ...and I want that for you! You CAN fix back pain.  

The secret is the TSR system that over 30,000+ people around the world are using to fix injuries & get flexible.

This article is the evidence-based theory. The exercises in the 45-day Athletes Back program are the best practices. Also, if you want 1:1 help, check out our VIP Mentorship program.

So, with that said... 

See you in the program! 😃




About The Author

Shane Dowd, CES, CMP is the owner/founder of He is also a sports performance & mobility coach specializing in injury prevention and flexibility for athletes.


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