You may have heard that improving core strength can ease back pain. Today I want to take a look at the relationship between core strength and reducing back pain. Is core strength your best defense against back problems? Please keep reading, and let’s find out.
Low back pain comes in many different shapes and sizes and affects a lot of people. For me, it’s sciatic nerve pain that shoots down my right leg. It is estimated that 80 percent of people are affected by back pain. Whether you have experienced a traumatic event, or merely picked something up off the floor, many people experience back pain.
Back pain can be caused by overuse, muscle strain, or injuries to the structures (discs, ligaments) that support your spine. For example, an injured muscle that hasn’t healed properly (or been allowed to heal correctly) can lead to a muscle imbalance.
A muscle imbalance can cause tension on the other structures like ligaments, other muscles, and bones, and make your back injury prone.
Back pain treatment options vary widely, and what works for one person will not necessarily work for someone else. There is no one size fits all treatment for back problems, but a strong core can definitely help.
Next, I am going to discuss how and why core strength can help people with back problems. I am a prime example, and I will get into that as well.
What are your core muscles?
Most people think of 6 pack abs when they think of core muscles. In reality, core muscles are more than that. Mayo Clinic defines core as the muscles around your trunk and pelvis.
Since I don’t exactly know what “trunk” is (I have a rough idea), I consider the bottom of my rib cage down to my butt as core muscles. People will argue what exactly core muscles are, but this is a good high-level explanation.
How does core strength help with back pain?
Core strength is excellent for improving posture and balance, and it can help with back pain as well. Core muscles help to support your spine and take the pressure off your back.
Strengthening your core muscles can be an excellent treatment option and is often one of the first things a doctor or physical therapist will recommend. Core strength can help restore balance to your spine and be a preventative measure, or help you recover from a back injury.
A lot of people neglect core-specific exercise, I for one will raise my hand on that one. Given this, you have to make an effort to do core exercises. Core strength helps with balance and stability by training the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen. Sports and other physical activities depend on a solid core.
Just by being upright during the day, our spine has pressure on it, not to mention being physically active. We rely on the muscles that surround the spine to take the pressure off of the spine. When these muscles are weak or not balanced, then structures of the spine (like discs) start to take on that pressure, and that leads to extra wear and tear.
By strengthening the muscles that surround the spine, this helps to take some of the load off and makes your back a lot more durable.
My personal experience
One of the most significant factors in my back pain getting better in the past few years has been improving my core strength. When I was younger, I thought I was invincible and didn’t really give much thought to core strength.
I hated doing any kind of core-specific training because it can be rather dull. Now I understand the importance of a strong core. I was always a pretty fit guy, so I thought that was good enough.
But for someone like me who has been dealing with back problems for about 20 years, a strong core is essential. I am not talking about doing hundreds or thousands of sit-ups every day. No, you don’t have to make drastic changes to your lifestyle, but being consistent is critical.
If you are not used to exercising your core regularly, you can start off doing some basic exercises like these. I do these and other exercises several times per week and it’s made a big difference for me.
Lay face down on the floor, propped up on your forearms and toes. The goal here is to keep your body in a straight line from head to toes, and not sag at the hips.
Hold this for 10-15 seconds and see how you feel, do a few sets like this. When you are more comfortable, you can hold for longer.
A modification of this exercise is you start on your forearms and knees, then progress to supporting yourself on your toes.
Lay flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Raise your hips and back off the floor. The goal is to maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Do 10 reps to start out, you can do more when you feel good about it.
Lay flat on your stomach with your arms and legs extended. Lift your left arm and right leg at the same time. Hold for a few seconds, then repeat on the other side. Start with 10 reps alternating sides. If you can do more, great, if not, do what you can do.
Also, with any of these exercises, if it hurts, don’t do it. To be safe, check with your doctor before you get started.
I believe, based on my own experience, that core strength can help back pain. By strengthening the muscles that support the spine, this helps to take undue pressure off the spine. Strengthening core muscles also help with balance stability. Whether you are working to prevent back problems or recovering from an injury, core strength can help.
As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” or something like that.
Let me know if you have had success with improving core strength, I am curious to hear other people’s stories.
Thank you for stopping by today. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, and I will get back to you soon.