Wear, Tear & Care: The SpineGym

By Jennifer Kilgore, Columnist

You’ve got to hand it to SpineGym’s marketing team -- when one of your device’s signature moves is visually hilarious, you could try to hide it... or you could own it.

They decided to own it.

The video was what intrigued me many months ago. I mean, it’s incredible.

I have Google Alerts set to notify me about new medical technology, and those are the types of emails sent to me by crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and IndieGogo. The SpineGym device, which is designed to develop your back and abdominal muscles, was 928% funded nearly a year ago.

My core has as much strength as a trash bag filled with mashed potatoes. I’ve been desperate for something to help me focus on those important muscles, but I was concerned that it would be too intense for my spine at T-11 and T-12, as a facet joint in that area never healed correctly.

Upon watching the exercise video, however, it didn’t seem too physically strenuous. I reached out to SpineGym USA to ask for a test unit, and they were gracious enough to offer me one. I’ve been using the device for a couple months now. Each session is intended to be less than five minutes, a few times a week.

Surprisingly, that’s all I can physically manage.

What is the SpineGym?

The SpineGym has two parallel poles set into a floorplate that go back and forth. There is a black band between the poles that you lean back or forward on. There are also loops on the base plate where you can hook plastic bands as an alternative workout for your arms.

The machine bases a workout’s pace on the user’s strength and capabilities, because the force working against the machine is what sets the tone. The moves themselves range from simple isometrics to a variation of crunches that work the abdominal and back stabilizer muscles.

With the positioning of the machine’s arms, it changes the moves entirely. I felt my muscles in a way I never had on a yoga mat, and they engaged from my low back all the way up to the base of my neck. When you watch the video it doesn’t look hard, but it’s surprisingly difficult when you actually try it.

SPINEGYM PHOTO

SPINEGYM PHOTO

I wondered if this was because I have absolutely no core strength, so I asked my husband to try it. Here are a few key demographic differences between the two of us: He’s 6’, an ultra-marathon runner and exercises for approximately three hours a day. (Yes, I am aware of the irony.) He did agree with my assessment, however, and said that the SpineGym engaged his midsection in a way that crunches definitely do not.

SpineGym’s Data

When 20 sedentary workers aged 35-60 were given SpineGyms to use for two weeks, they were instructed to exercise for only five minutes a day. The following results were based on EMG measurements after two weeks:

  • an average 80% improvement in activation of back muscles
  • an average 141% improvement in activation of abdominal muscles
  • significant postural improvements
  • significant improvements in abdominal muscle strength
  • approximately 90% of users found the training method to be efficient or very efficient.

A second test was performed on users aged 70-90 and included three SpineGym sessions a week for two months. Each session lasted four to five minutes.

  • Standing balance improvement of 74%
  • Muscle strength and coordination: improvement of 58%
  • Walking speed improvement of 41%

Most of this improvement was reached by participants already after the first month of exercise.

How It Worked for Me

My lower back has been hurting much more recently in that “coming-back-from-the-dead” way. If I overdo it with the SpineGym -- meaning if I use it more often than once every few days -- I go into spasm and have a flare. This is when a session lasts about five minutes. It targets that specific area that needs the most work, so I am very excited about this unit.

People larger than 6’ might find it a bit flimsy for their size, as the poles are quite tall, set into a base plate that fits your shoes side by side, and is made of carbon fiber. It’s a bit of a balancing act. However, as long as your feet are firmly planted and your core is engaged, the platform should not move. Plus, there’s an anti-slip pad underneath.

The other great things? It’s relatively small and light for medical equipment (11.2 pounds or 5.1 kg). It sets up and breaks down easily and stores flat in a T-shirt-shaped bag, though I don’t ever put it away. It doesn’t take up much space, so why bother?

When I’ve been working all day and desperately need to stretch my lower and mid back, the SpineGym hits the muscles that need releasing the most. The unit targets the discomfort better than an upward-facing dog pose on the yoga mat. I just have to remind myself not to use the SpineGym too often, or I’ll be my own worst enemy in terms of progress.

You can purchase the SpineGym for $198 through Indiegogo.

Jennifer Kain Kilgore is an attorney editor for both Enjuris.com and the Association of International Law Firm Networks. She has chronic back and neck pain after two car accidents.

You can read more about Jennifer on her blog, Wear, Tear, & Care.  

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.