Core Stabilization Exercises For Low Back Pain
Core stabilization exercises are an effective way to treat low back pain. In addition to being able to reduce the intensity of your pain, core stabilization exercises can help you strengthen the muscles around your lower spine and pelvis while also reducing the risk of further injury. These exercises can also help enhance your balance, stability, and endurance. Performing these exercises regularly can help improve the coordination between the muscles in your core and other parts of the body, positively affecting your posture. All of these benefits can help boost your confidence, increase your mobility, and significantly improve your quality of life.
What Is The “Core?”
When most people hear the word “core,” they think of chiseled abs or the “rectus abdominis”, the muscle that makes the beloved “6-pack.” But the core of your body is much more than that. In reality, the core is composed of the deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis, and the deepest layer of the back muscles, the multifidus, a complex series of muscles located between the pelvic floor and diaphragm. The main job of these two core muscles is “co-contract” providing strength and stabilization in the lower lumbar spine.
The core lies at the center of your body and is made up of a deep layer of muscles that help support your spine, butt, back, hips, and stomach. These muscles help keep your posture strong and tall, allowing you to bend, twist, run, jump, and move freely.
Some of the main muscles that make up the core of your body include:
- Rectus abdominis, the six-pack muscles in the front of your abdomen
- Transverse abdominis, the lower abs, also known as the “seatbelt”
- Inner and outer obliques on the sides of your body, helping you twist side to side
- Multifidus, deep muscles in your lower back
- Erector spinae which run along your spine
- Diaphragm, the muscle at the bottom of the rib cage that supports breathing
- Pelvic floor muscles which help control continence and play a huge role in pregnancy and birth
What Does Back Pain Have To Do With Your Core?
Since the core essentially holds the body together, a weak core can lead to a weak body. Pain in your lower back is a common indicator of a weak core. When your core muscles are weak, your back doesn’t support your weight as well as it should. As a result, your spine and the muscles in your back overexert themselves to compensate for the lack of balance, stability, and control that your core muscles are unable to provide. This can cause back pain.
Even though the signs of lower back pain can vary from person to person, the pain usually feels like a:
- Dull or nagging ache
- Sharpness after standing
- Stabbing or shooting sensation
- Sharp, stinging, tingling, or numb sensation that moves down the thighs into the lower legs and feet
The good news is you can start strengthening your core right away. As you do, you can begin to experience a wide range of benefits.
Core Stabilization Exercises To Ease Low Back Pain
There are many different types of core stabilization exercises that can help ease low back pain. Some of the most effective include:
1. Bird Dog
While this exercise strengthens the abdominal muscles, lower back, butt, and thighs, it primarily targets the erector spinae, the muscle that runs down the length of your spine.
Bird dog exercises help reduce back pain by teaching you to engage your abdominal muscles and stabilize your lower back while moving your arms and legs. Doing this decreases tension in the lower back which can reduce pain and make moving your back easier.
When done correctly, bird dog exercises can:
- Reduce lower back pain
- Increase low back functionality
- Stabilize the spine
- Enhance coordination
- Increase shoulder and back mobility
- Improve balances
- Encourage good form and posture
A plank is a simple but effective core exercise that builds strength and stability in the body. Even though this exercise requires you to balance your body weight on your arms and toes, most of the work in a plank is done by the core. As you hold a plank, the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, inner and outer obliques, and spinal erectors are engaged and strengthened.
Plank exercises help reduce back pain by strengthening the muscles that make holding a neutral spine posture possible. They do this by allowing you to build up your core strength without stressing your spine. A plank movement allows your spine to rest while simultaneously making you stronger.
In addition to reducing pain and strengthening your core muscles, plank exercises can help:
- Lower your risk of injury
- Improve your posture
- Enhance your balance and coordination
- Improve flexibility
- Encourage a healthy metabolism
This exercise strengthens the lower back and hip muscles in order to stabilize the spine. As the spine stabilizes, back and hip muscles start working properly, which can ease tension and reduce pain. Many people find this exercise easy to do because the bridge does not put any pressure on the lower back.
When done correctly, the bridge can help:
- Reduce knee and back pain
- Boost flexibility
- Improve balance and posture
- Strengthen the core and back
- Shape and tone the gluteus maximus
4. Windshield Wipers
This particular exercise helps keep your back stable while you move the rest of your body. Doing this exercise eases tension in the back without adding stress on the spine. As the low back loosens, you may become more limber, more mobile, and more flexible.
In addition to reducing back pain and increasing flexibility, the windshield wiper exercise can help you:
- Strengthen your core
- Stabilize your hips
- Regain control of your body
Helping You Recover From Low Back Pain
Here at Athletic Physical Therapy, we know how debilitating lower back pain can be. But we also know that strengthening your core can help you recover.
When you visit our clinic, we’ll assess your current back pain level and develop an individualized core stabilization program just for you. The exercises in your program will meet you right where you are but will start to challenge you as you make progress toward your goals.
Lower back pain doesn’t have to continue to negatively affect your life. Call us today if you’re ready to say goodbye to low back pain and start regaining your strength, flexibility, and independence.