Thompson Maneuver Exercises For Back Pain



Thompson Maneuver Exercises For Back Pain



The Thompson Maneuver was popularized by orthopedist Alec Thompson, MD. The exercise works to properly align the sacroiliac (SI) joints that lie between the sacrum and the hipbones, or ilium (see diagram). Supporting the weight of the entire torso, an injury to or misalignment in these SI joints can cause widespread back pain.




SI Joints




The Thompson Maneuver exercises for back pain can help people with lower back pain, sacroiliitis, disc problems, sciatica, scoliosis; and even back pain that travels up the spine. It works for one simple reason - it helps to correct the alignment of the sacroiliac joints. The sacroiliac joints are the two small joints at the juncture of the hipbones and the triangular bone at the base of the spine (called the sacrum). They are very strong and stable weight bearing joints that allow a small amount of movement, mostly as we walk. Because the sacrum and pelvis form the base of the spine, they act like the foundations of a building. Any misalignment here will affect the rest of the building (your spine!).





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The key to success here is to do the Thompson Maneuver correctly and often (several times a day). You may experience some aching in the SI joint the first few days. As long as it is only mild, this is normal. Before you begin, identify on your own body the area this maneuver targets. Simply put your hands on your waist with your thumbs toward the front. Move your fingers down until you feel your tailbone. Now, walk a few steps and notice the motion there, these are your sacroiliac joints. You can often feel a bony bump on either side of your sacrum at the base of your spine, that is right over the SI joint.



Once you have a good idea where your SI's are, then follow these simple steps.


(1) Sitting up straight with your shoulders against a chair or bed, or lying on a flat surface, bend one leg at the knee and grab onto your ankle with the opposite hand (fingers on the front of the ankle, thumb circling and resting under the ankle). Hold the arm straight down to get the proper angle.




(2) Place your other hand on the bent knee with your thumb on the inside, your little finger on the outside, and your three middle fingers on top of the knee. Let the bent knee drop naturally to the outside.



(3) Elevate the elbow of the arm holding your knee to the level of the shoulder, so the shoulder and elbow are level. Moving the elbow straight back, pull the knee gently but firmly as far back as it will comfortably go. The lower leg and forearm should be in a more or less straight line. The sacroiliac joint will now be releasing towards its' correct alignment.





(4) Hold this position for 10 seconds, then release and repeat the procedure with the opposite leg.



It's impossible to pull too far back, you cannot displace the hip by pulling back. If the joint is already in position, this is still a helpful exercise for increasing circulation and toning the area. For an acute injury, you can repeat this maneuver every hour, or as frequently as possible, for three to four minutes for the first four or five days after injury. Also consider using ice packs. Continue to do it at least three times daily as a preventive measure to keep your sacroiliac joints in proper alignment.



The Thompson Maneuver exercises for back pain can be an easy an effective way of dealing with back pain from home, but it is not a miracle cure and does not fix all back problems. Try this easy remedy at home, but if you have persistent or chronic back pain, see your health professional. Secondly, remember be active in maintaining your spinal health. Total Back Pain Solution outlines a simple exercise program that can be done in ten minutes, three times a week to maintain optimal spinal health, keeping your back strong, stable and flexible.




If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.


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  1. Thank you for the useful tips and easy to follow instructions. I will apply this Thompson Maneuver to myself during my rest periods.

    • Hi Adel,

      That’s great, I am sure that will help you. Just remember that consistency is the key. It can take a while to get results, you just need to stick with it.

      All the best,

      Dr Brad

  2. Thanks for putting the “Thompson Maneuver” on your website. Dr. Thompson would be very pleased to see so many sites promoting his exercise. It was his goal and dream to leave behind a way that people could help themselves to correct their back problem. It truly works and most of my friends use it. Dr. Thompson has been gone for about 12 years, he died at the age of 90, but continued to see patients well into his 80’s. He also used prolotherapy in treating severe back problems. He also wrote a book “Dr. Alec Thompson’s new cure for your aching Back” in 1972 by Jess Stearn which you can possible still get a copy of.

    Thanks again for putting my father’s exercise on the web.

    Darlene (Thompson) Van Hemelryck

    • Hi Darlene,

      Your father obviously did some great work, I did not realise that he continued to see patients into his 80’s! He must have been an amazing man to know.
      We are honoured to have his exercise on

      Thankyou for getting in touch.

      Dr Brad

    • Hi Darlene,
      My father was a long time patient of your dad and I had the fortune of meeting him on a couple occasions. My father still has a signed copy of his book and now I too am using his technique. My dad may have been one of his last patients.

  3. Its wonderful to see Darlene, Dr. Thompson’s daughter on this site. I have the book and it is the first thing for years that has given me hope. I am practising the exercise. In the book, page 51, Dr Thompson explains how gastrointestinal function is affected by a si displacement. I live in South Africa but an currently in Holland Till mid October. I have done the rounds of specialists, chiro’s etc for si which has been a problem for years. I have believed that the vagus nerve irritation has caused untold digestive problems. I am desperately looking for someone who can help by seeing this connection. Dr Thompson has described exactly my digestive symptoms to my amazement. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Dawn,

      Chiropractors traditionally understand the relationship between the spine and the nervous system, and how spinal problems can have a detrimental effect on organ function. However this is currently under threat as many Chiro’s try to fit into a medically dominated health care system, restricting themselves to only treating musculo-skeletal conditions such as back pain.

      Unfortunately this means that it is becoming harder to locate chiropractors who will take a wholistic approach to optimising your spinal function, and therefore your entire health and wellbeing. They are still out there, but it does depend a lot on where and when they were trained.

      Our best advice would be to seek out a chiropractor who specializes in either Sacro-Occipital Technique (SOT), or even Applied Kinesiology. Both these methods address organ dysfunction as it relates to the spine.

      You can find a list of SOT practitioners in Europe here:

      Who this helps you.

      Kind Regards,

      Dr Brad

  4. Thank you so much for having this on your website! I was given a copy of this exercise over 20 years ago and after using it successfully over and over, managed to misplace the instructions. Somehow I thought that Thompson was the name associated with the maneuver and God Bless Google…..your site popped up. Thank you again!!

  5. I had sciatica years ago, and the Thompson Maneuver corrected it by aligning the pelvic bones. I do the maneuver several times a week for maintenance. I do the Thompson Maneuver lying down, and find it more effective for me than when doing it seated. After doing it as instructed, I do it by pulling on the heel of my foot with the hand on that side. This gives me a greater range of motion and seems to work best.
    Thanks for posting this.

  6. In the 1980’s I worked with Darline. I’d hurt my back and she kept pushing this book at me, read this book. Eventually I did and became convinced I could heal myself. I waited 3 months to see Dr. Thompson as he was at the time, on the road doing lectures in China.

    I eventually got to spent one wonderful hour with the man. He adjusted me, then told me to get up. As anyone would do, I tightened my stomach muscles and sat up. And learned the most valuable lesson I could have. The moment I tightened my stomach from the lying position I threw out my back again. So I learned to roll over and get up slowly afterwards.

    I recall he also had a skeleton in the office that had been modified so he could show you the ilium and how they worked.

    By the way, that’s Darlene when she was a tween, in the illustrations and pictures in the back of the book showing how to do the exercises correctly,

    And yes, it does work and I did heal myself. I share this knowledge with all who will listen.

    • Thanks so much for sharing Mark! It’s great to hear from someone who actually got to spend some time with Dr Thompson, and I’m glad you were able to heal yourself through his work.

      All the best,
      Dr Brad

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