Don’t let your back hold you back. You can prevent back pain by strengthening your core muscles with 3 tips.
Weak Core Muscles
The lower back carries much of the weight of the upper body including the head, pectoral girdle, arms, and chest. Luckily, the core muscles provide support and help the spine in this task. When the core muscles are weak, however, excess stress is placed on the lower back which can lead to pain, bad posture, and poor gait.
According to Kato Et al., core muscle weakness is also associated with poor balance, functional performance, and increased risk of falls in older adults (2019). For this reason, and many others, it is important to maintain strong core muscles to help the spine carry this weight and prevent associated back pain. Unfortunately, everyday habits like excessive sitting and lack of exercise can also contribute to a weak core.
→ Core Muscles
The core muscles include those that make up the abdominal wall (like the rectus abdominis and internal/external obliques), those that support the spine (like the erector spinae, and multifidus), those that make up the pelvic floor, the buttocks, and the diaphragm (breathing muscle). Some of these muscles lie deeper in musculature than others, however, they work together to support the upper body and stabilize the trunk of the body.
Targeting specific core muscles to strengthen can prove challenging, especially when back pain is already an issue. Ideally, one wants some form of guided exercise that does not aggravate the existing back pain and that is tailored to one’s physical capacity. Older adults, especially, should consider getting a series of structural and mechanical assessments followed by specific exercise prescriptions to minimize the risk of injury.
At Santa Cruz Core our Chiropractors are equipped to perform structural and mechanical assessments, offer manipulations, and give exercise prescriptions. Our personal trainers, knowledgeable in body mechanics and can help tailor exercises to one’s individual fitness level.
→ Strengthening Your Core
If at risk for developing weak core muscles and associated back pain, exercise is key. While core exercises can be challenging and are not for all body types, modified versions of these can be performed to gradually strengthen and adapt core muscles to the more advanced versions. Once again, it pays off to have proper guidance from a personal trainer or exercise specialist to help with modified versions of exercises and minimize the risk of injury.
It is worth mentioning, however, that core-specific exercises are not the only way to improve back pain associated with a weak core. Exercise in general (doesn’t have to focus on the core) can help reduce the risk for low back pain associated with weak trunk muscles and improve existing pain. A systematic review by Chang Et. al. (2015), suggests that core strength training exercises are more effective than resistance training for alleviating chronic low back pain.
Some exercises that target core muscles specifically include planks, side planks, “bridges,” and the “superman” (exercises with quotation marks may go by different names). An exercise guide by Health Services at Princeton University also recommends stretches to promote lumbar and core strength and stability. This includes stretch exercises of the quadricep muscles, hip flexors, hamstrings, IT band, and adductor muscles (Lumbar/Core Strength, N.d.). It is important to remember to warm-up properly before engaging in stretching exercises to lower the risk of soft tissue injuries.
If you are physically limited like older adults, those with musculoskeletal disorders, or recovering from injury it may pay off to have someone experienced to guide you through an exercise routine to prevent aggravating existing pain and prevent further injury. At Santa Cruz CORE, we not only offer award-winning personal training but also supplement it with other modalities like therapeutic massage and acupuncture to help deal with chronic low back pain and improve recovery.
- Kato, S., Murakami, H., Demura, S., Yoshioka, K., Shinmura, K., Yokogawa, N., . . . Tsuchiya, H. (2019). Abdominal trunk muscle weakness and its association with chronic low back pain and risk of falling in older women. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 20(1). doi:10.1186/s12891-019-2655-4
- Chang, W., Lin, H., & Lai, P. (2015, November 3). Core strength training for patients with chronic low back pain. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25931693/
- Athletic Medicine Lumbar/Core Strength and Stability Exercises. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://uhs.princeton.edu/sites/uhs/files/documents/Lumbar.pdf