How to Decompress Your Spine to Alleviate Back Pain

decompress spine
Photograph by Dylan Coulter

All day long your spine is working to keep you upright. When you’re sitting in a chair, your spine is engaged, keeping your torso from slumping over, and holding up your 10-pound head. It works extra hard when we pick up heavy objects, whether it’s a loaded barbell or a week’s worth of groceries. So give your spine some love. The next time you’re lifting, in between sets, do a dead hang from a pullup bar. Here’s why you’ll reap some major benefits if you decompress your spine.


Between the vertebrae of your backbone are spinal disks that contain little sacks of fluid. When we load on pressure, the sacks spread and flatten. When we take off the pressure, the disks refill, or decompress.

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A static hang creates even more space between the vertebrae, allowing the disks to expand with fluid more fully. If you want, make slow, small rotations, moving from the thoracic spine, which is the portion of your back behind your rib cage. (Don’t simply twist your hips, which will engage the lumbar spine.) Do this between lifts and at the end of a workout. All it takes is 30 seconds­—and it feels good, too.

Around the world, back pain is the single leading cause of disability, according to the American Chiropractic Association, preventing people from working and just enjoying everyday activities. Try noninvasive actions like foam rolling, deep-tissue massage, and decompressing your spine to help alleviate pain before you turn to more drastic measures.

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For even more decompression, hang by your legs. It reverses the normal force of gravity to open up greater space in your spine.

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