08 Apr Improve Your Core Strength and Reduce Back Pain
Lower back pain is a very common musculoskeletal ailment that manifests in almost everyone, and it can often be reduced by strengthening the core (Winderl, 2018). The core should be viewed as a cube shaped area of the body that includes the lower to middle back, the side and front of the abdomen, the pelvic floor, and the diaphragm (McIntosh, 2014). All six sides of “the cube” needs to be strong to stabilise the spine and to reduce or prevent back pain (McIntosh, 2014). Without a strong core the body is more reliant on ligaments and bones, which in turn places stress on the discs in the spine that will increase a chance of injury occurring (Winderl, 2018).
When working to improve core strength, you will need to focus on exercises and movements that will not worsen any lower back problems. Any movement that causes pain or discomfort is to be avoided and you should work within the scope of movement that is comfortable for you (Winderl,2018).
To strengthen the cube area, the following full body exercises are recommended (McIntosh,2014).
- Cat/Cow: in a tabletop/four-point position with your back flat, hands under the shoulders and your knees on the floor under the hips. Tuck your tailbone under towards the floor and arch your lower back up towards the ceiling (imagine you are drawing a line with your tailbone on the wall behind you). slightly tip your head down towards the floor. Hold this for five seconds and move back to the neutral position. Repeat five times.
- Squats: slowly squat down at a forty-five-degree angle as if you are wanting to sit on a chair. Keep your spine static and in a neutral position at all times. Repeat five to ten times.
- Sit-ups: lie on your back and maintain the arch in the low back and bend your knees up to prevent an injury. Support your head with your hands and keep your head and neck fixed with the movement going through the thoracic spine and mid-back, there must be no movement in the lower back. This exercise is meant to work stomach muscles with minimum movement to the spine as you gently curl up. Slowly increase the distance that you lift your head from the floor. Repeat these ten to fifteen times slowly without bouncing. It is vital that you remember the correct technique when performing this exercise.
- Side Plank/ Side Bridge: lie on your side and lift your upper body off the floor with your weight balanced on your elbow. Then lift your lower body up so that the weight is now on your knees. Keep your spine and lower body in a straight line for thirty seconds to two minutes. As you improve you will be able to straighten your legs which will then shift the weight from your knees to your feet.
- Plank: similar to a side plank, but you are now facing the floor and your weight is placed on your elbows, with the lower body weight first being placed on your knees and then moving down to your feet. Always keep your legs and back in a straight line when you lift your body. Hold this position for thirty seconds to two minutes.
- Superman Position: in the table-top/ four-point position with your back flat, lift either your hand or knee about two to four centimetres off the ground at a time, and hold for fifteen seconds. Progress to lifting and straightening one arm or leg at a time until they are in-line with the spine and hold for fifteen seconds. Once you have mastered this you can them lift an opposite arm and leg simultaneously holding them parallel to the floor for at least ten seconds. Repeat each stage as you progress five times.
Try to complete these exercises at least five times a week. What matters is improving your muscle endurance rather than muscle strength. If you have a history of lower back injuries or discs problems, please consult your doctor/ physiotherapist/ Osteopath before trying any new exercises.
Contact OsteoVision for information about the core and muscles strengthening class that we offer, where we will be able to guide you through the correct techniques for exercising.