Many people will experience back pain throughout their life. The stressors of daily life, sitting at a desk with poor posture, and exercising incorrectly can all harm your back, neck, and spine.
But core strength isn’t just about building a more “physically appealing” body (whatever that means to you). There are many health benefits from having stronger core muscles, including the ability to minimize back pain.
Building core muscle strength can help you reach your physical fitness goals by helping you build muscle mass and definition, preventing injury, improving balance, and preventing pain.
Wondering how it all works together? Here’s why your back and spine need strong core muscles to support them.
The anatomy of your core
When people think about the core, they usually think of the abdominal muscles. While these are a key part of the core, they aren’t the only muscle group.
Your core muscles also include:
- Front abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis)
- Internal and external obliques
- The transverse abdominis muscle
- Muscles in the back that lie between and alongside the spinal bones (paraspinals)
- The diaphragm
- Pelvic floor muscles and hip flexors
- Muscles in the glutes
A strong core is a key to supporting a healthy back. That’s because the muscles there are responsible for spinal stability. The core muscles carry the weight of your body and help your body move around freely. Building and strengthening these muscles is the best way to prevent back pain, no matter what stage of life you’re in.
How core strength prevents and reduces back pain
If the muscles in your lower back and abdominals are weak, then the body relies more on passive structures for stability, including ligaments (the tissue that connects your bones). It can also rely on the spinal bones/discs for support if needed.
Strong abdominal muscles allow your body to transfer stress throughout the muscles, not on the spine, which significantly reduces back pain. The muscles in the vertebrae also keep your spine aligned and help it maintain the proper curvature and neutral pelvic tilt, keeping pressure off of your spine and preventing pain syndromes from developing.
The body relies on muscular balance. Your core helps unload your spine and equally distributes forces and impact in day-to-day life. If you have muscular imbalance and weakness and your core is not doing its job then there will be extra reliance on the spine for support and stability.
However, when each core muscle group works in synchrony and activates properly, you will experience improved lumbar and thoracic support with decreased pain and risk of injury. ,
Weak muscles in the back and abdomen can cause an imbalance in the way that you carry your body and use muscles that maintain proper alignment. Because of this, patients with weaker core muscles may be at a higher risk of developing degenerative diseases and long-term pain in the spine.
To prevent issues like this from happening, it’s important to improve and maintain core stabilization! With it, you provide the much-needed support your body needs while alleviating pain and pressure throughout the spine.
Easy Core Muscle Exercises at Home
Just 5-10 minutes every day can help build core muscle and reduce back pain. Exercises that isolate the muscles to strengthen them can easily be done at home!
- Side plank: Start by sitting on the floor with your right hand underneath your shoulder and feet stacked. Lifting your body, keep your abdominal muscles engaged as you continue to keep the feet stacked. If you need to, modify this exercise by dropping the bottom knee for extra support or by placing your top foot in front of your bottom foot!
- Bridging: While lying on your back with knees bent, feet close to your buttocks, tighten your deep abdominals, squeeze your buttocks and then raise your hips off of the floor as creating a “bridge” with your body. Be sure not to arch your low back.
- Abdominal crunches: Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Keep your feet on the floor and lock your hands behind your head with your elbows out wide. When you exhale, use your core abdominal muscles to lift your shoulder blades off of the floor.
Want to take it a step further?
While we’re a big fan of these simple core exercises, we know they aren’t for everyone. Building strength depends on each person’s unique needs, and any exercise, core-strengthening or not, has the potential to cause discomfort. This is why we recommend making an appointment!
These exercises are generally easy, but doing them the wrong way can cause even more pain. We encourage our patients to listen to their bodies and look for cues as certain exercises may be painful. Enlisting the help of a certified physical therapist and pilates instructor can ensure that you maintain good form and body mechanics with all core exercises and that you aren’t hurting yourself.
If you’ve been:
- Experiencing spinal pain and do not know what to do to relieve your symptoms
- Are experiencing worsening back pain even with activity modification
- Experiencing pain that keeps you from daily activities
It may be time to schedule an appointment.
Physical therapists are experts in the musculoskeletal system and are qualified to help you find relief for your back pain. Through a variety of physical therapy and wellness services, with customized plans tailored to fit your needs, you can finally get relief and help prevent that bothersome back pain.