Six exercises for neck pain and back pain — does it work?

Someone reached out today to ask if the exercises we prescribed as a chiropractor are the same as what is used in physiotherapy. In my opinion, that is not a very meaningful question because it’s akin to asking if cai png and nasi padang are the same.

There is no perfect answer to that!

However, if you were to first give me a set of exercises then asked if I would use them in practice, I would be able answer that.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an article with six exercises with olympic medalist Mari Holden to help keep neck pain and back pain at bay. Let’s review them to see if they are any good.

Superman plank …

low back pain exercise
Planks may feel shiok to do but that doesn’t mean it is actually more useful for your core!

When people start talking about core strength or core stability for back pain, they quickly lose my attention. There is no research out there that can demonstrate a causal relationship between core stability and lower back pain.

I can understand how core exercises can be super shiok because of the ridiculous burn. However, to blanket state that it will help you prevent back pain … is a bit of an overstretch.

Having said that, any exercises is better than no exercise. If you’d like to do the core supermans, I recommend doing them slow, for three sets of 12 repetitions rather than holding them for a full minute.

Side plank can help with lateral movements.

side plank variations
I do love side planks. They come with many variations and all of them work pretty well for lower back mobilisation!

Again, more core work here.

Despite my reservations with the core narrative, I actually do find side planks useful. In practice, I prescribe them as more of a mobilisation exercise to get the spine moving in frontal plane. It is particularly useful for clients with aberrant movements as well as those with moderate to high sensitisation of their lumbar spine.

Split squats are good strengthening exercises.

split squat with dumbbells
Split squat is not something I personally use in practice. It does look like a half-a** lunge, no?

Something I don’t personally use in practice because I never saw the need to. However, I can see how it will be useful for back pain.

I am a lot more inclined to accept split squats as a plausible exercise to help with pain. First, it is a fairly functional movement. Many of our day-to-day motions come with elements of squatting. Second, you can load on it and build strength!

World Health Organisation recommends that you clock at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity of physical activity a week. On top of them, two days of strengthening exercises!

Split squats is an easy exercise to check off the strength day. Core exercises? Mmm, not so useful.

Back extensions (i.e., supermans)

back pain exercise
I do see the value in working the back extensors. However, this will probably not be my go-to variation to avoid back pain.

I am not a huge fan of the variation of back extensions in the article because the torso is resting on the ground.

If you are looking to do some sort of almost-isometric back extensions, I much prefer you do it with a glute-hamstring developer or a roman chair.

It’s a good way to build extensor endurance in the low back. I’ll give her that. With the roman chair, you can even hold on to weights for some extra strength gains!

Tricep dips are good for triceps.

Some exercises is better than no exercise, true.

Tricep dips for neck pain is a bit of a stretch, imo. There are way more effective exercises to do that will better target the neck-mid back- shoulder complex.

Incline push-up to prevent neck pain?



I could imagine prescribing incline push-ups for clients with 9/10 neck pain. However, to use incline push ups to “avoid” neck pain is a bit of the stretch.

There is no magic exercise.

Exercises are exercises.

When performed correctly to the right purpose, they can deliver a lot of value.

If you are suffering from neck pain or back pain, and you need a bit of help with recovery, my suggestion is to seek out professional help. While being an olympic medalist may make you an expert in your sport, it doesn’t make you an expert with recovery.

Book in for an appointment with us today to discover the difference an evidence-based treatment can make.

P. S., Instagram rehab doesn’t work.


Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.

Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.

*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.