The core muscles support the weight of the entire body. Some studies have shown that strengthening the core and back muscles can help reduce back pain. Strong core muscles can also increase stability and improve flexibility. Weak core muscles can lead to poor posture, which can strain surrounding muscles and cause back pain.
What are core muscles?
The body’s core is made up of several muscle groups. This includes the front abdominal muscles, the obliques along both sides, the transverse abdominal muscle, muscles in the back along and between the spine, hip flexors, gluteal muscles, pelvic floor muscles, and the diaphragm. These muscles, along with the ligaments that connect bone to other bone, provide stability for the body.
Exercises that strengthen the core
A number of exercises can be done to strengthen the core muscles. Here are a few of the most popular ones. Many of these exercises are recommended by physical therapists to address back pain and simple back strain. Be sure to perform exercises correctly to avoid injury.
Bird Dog – Start on hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Extend right arm forward and left leg back. Squeeze the abdominal muscles while maintaining a flat back. Repeat with the other arm and leg.
Knee to Chest Stretches – Lie on back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Use both hands to pull one knee toward the chest. Hold for 5 seconds, keeping abdominal muscles tight. Return to starting position and repeat with other leg.
Lying Lateral Leg Lifts – Lie on one side with legs together and lower leg slightly bent. Engage the core muscles and lift the top leg about 18 inches, keeping it extended. Hold for 3 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Turn on other side and repeat exercise with other leg.
Planks – This exercise is a bit more advanced. Starting from a push up position, bend arms and support body with forearms. Keep hips, legs, and torso in a straight line while tightening the abdominal muscles. Do not arch the back and look at the floor to keep the neck properly aligned. Hold the position 20-30 seconds, if comfortable.
Take proper precautions
People with a history of back injury or lumbar disc degeneration should consult their doctor before beginning a new exercise program. Some exercises should be avoided, as they can aggravate back pain. These include sit-ups, toe touches, and exercises that require lifting the legs together while lying on the back. Twisting movements may actually increase pain, so be careful to avoid any exercises that cause discomfort. If back pain continues to be a problem after adding some core strengthening exercises into your regular routine, you should consult your physician.
Sometimes back pain resolves with rest and a conservative approach to pain management. However, some cases need more advanced medical treatment. The physicians at Atlanta Brain and Spine Care are ready to help you find relief. Our expertise is the diagnosis and treatment of spinal injuries and disorders. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.