How Your Core Can Heal and Prevent Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a tremendously common problem for many people in the United States. In fact, lower back pain is the biggest cause of disability worldwide.    Something like 80% of the U.S. population will experience back pain in their lives, and many will miss out on work, school or leisure activities with family and friends.

The vast majority of lower back pain isn’t caused by a major injury or a chronic condition like arthritis. Most back pain is the product of a strain that happened when doing something simple, like picking a small object up off the floor, carrying a heavy bag or trying to manage active children.  Any of these can cause pain, which is part of the reason why lower back pain is so common.

There is good news, however, on how you can treat and prevent lower back pain with some simple exercises for your core muscles!

What Is Your Core?

You may have heard the term “core” before in relation to your body, but you may not be clear on what that actually means. No worries! We’ll break it down for you.

Doctors, physical therapists and trainers use the term “core muscles” to refer to the muscles that circle your body around your midsection. This includes your abdominal muscles in the front (the part that can look like a “six-pack”) as well as your back muscles and the oblique muscles that run on the sides of the body from your pelvis to up to your underarm area.

These muscles surround the center of your body, sometimes called the “trunk.”  These muscles are called the “core” because of their central location, but also because of their importance to you and your health.  

How Are Your Core Muscles Related to Lower Back Pain?

If your core muscles are strong and healthy, they act like a natural back brace! The muscles around the center of your body are there to protect and shelter your spine, providing support for your posture and your back.

Most of us, however, neglect our core muscles.  We all sit far too much, and when we do, our bellies slump, and our abdominal muscles relax, which makes them weaker.  When we lie back, the same happens for our back muscles. Without all-day engagement and exercise, our core muscles become weak and lose their strength along with their ability to protect our lower back and spine.  

Adding strength to your core muscles through exercise targeted at those muscles helps stabilize the area around your spine and lower back, increasing your flexibility and mobility and reducing your risk of injury.

When your core muscles are weak, your spine has to work much harder to hold you up, and therefore it is already straining in your everyday activities. That’s why a simple action like picking up a paper off the floor can lead to injury- your muscles are weak.

In fact, it is often the case that people are more injured and hurt by picking up smaller items than larger ones. The reason is simple: when you go to pick up a large item, you prepare by tightening your muscles, which helps protect your spine and lower back.  When you go to pick up something small, you don’t prepare in that way, and leave your spine and back at risk.

Your core muscles don’t just protect your back from injury. Studies have also shown that exercising and strengthening your core muscles also helps reduce and alleviate chronic lower back pain.  The reasons are similar. Strengthening your muscles takes the stress off your back, and allows your injured lower back to heal.

What Can I Do to Strengthen My Core?

There are many great suggestions out there to begin working on strengthening your core muscles.  You should, however, consult with your medical or chiropractic doctor to see which types of exercises are best for you and your body to begin.

Here at Intero Chiropractic, we often suggest some simple isometric exercises that focus on your core muscles as a good place to start.  

To do these exercises, sit or stand straight. Place your finger tips or hands on your abdominal muscles to begin, and tighten your muscles as if someone is about to punch you in the stomach. Your hands and fingers should feel the difference as your muscles tighten.  Hold your muscles tight for three seconds and then let them go. Do this five times.

Then repeat this procedure with your sides. Place your hands just above your hips and focus on tightening the muscles you feel there. Finally, do this with the muscles around your lower back.

Start by working each part of your core for 30 seconds, and as you become stronger you can increase the amount of exercise.  

More Core Work Will Help Even if You’re Already an Athlete

If you already exercise regularly, you may think that you don’t need to work on core muscles strength.  Studies show, however, that even frequent runners and other people who exercise often can be prone to lower back pain if they have weaker core muscles.

Lack of core strength also can increase the likelihood of fatigue and lower your endurance. If you’re an athlete looking to improve your endurance and go farther without injury, then adding more core exercise is important.

Aerobic exercise that gets your heart rate up, and weight-bearing exercise to strengthen your bones are both important parts of an exercise program.  If you are doing those things areadly, then great! But don’t forget that core strengthening exercise is a key and essential part of your workout routine to prevent and heal from injury.

Feel The Difference!

Strengthening your core muscles will help you both protect yourself from injury, and help you heal from a hurt back. It will help your balance and stability, making you feel better!

The value you get from strengthening your core will benefit your whole back and your posture, from head to toe. You’ll look more confident, stand straighter and be able to complete all the activities that you need to in your daily life!

Not sure about how to start? Make an appointment today at InteroChiropractic, where we can diagnose your pain and coach you on core strengthening exercises to help you heal and live pain-free!