Studies show that exercises to strengthen your core are one of the most effective treatments for back pain, and the reverse is also true: A strong core is your best defense against developing back pain.
Strong core muscles are indispensable for every movement you make, from bending over to pet your dog to enjoying a walk in the park. It goes without saying that they’re crucial for athletes who want to maintain optimal performance.
At Premier Spine Institute, with offices in The Woodlands, Humble, and Baytown, Texas, Dr. Bonaventure Ngu works with you to develop a customized exercise plan so you can safely strengthen your core without stress or injury to your back.
Your core muscles are vital for a healthy back because they’re solely responsible for spinal stability. These muscles must carry the weight of your body and step up to the challenge when the load increases.
Whether the additional load is healthy and normal — sports, exercise, and everyday activities like bending and lifting — or the result of gaining weight, you depend on your core muscles for every movement you make.
So what are your core muscles? Your core includes your abdominal, back, hip, buttocks and pelvic muscles. Out of all these muscles, three that are most associated with maintaining a healthy back are:
The transverse abdominis muscle is located under your obliques (the muscles that create a six-pack). It forms the front and sides of your abdomen, wrapping around to connect with tissues that run alongside the spine.
In its role as a core muscle, the transverse abdominis stabilizes the pelvis and lower back before you begin to move. It also pulls your abdomen in toward your spine and maintains good posture.
The multifidus muscle runs along your spine, providing stabilization and promoting proper function of the vertebral joints. The erector spinae are large muscles on both sides of the spine. They straighten your back and support side-to-side movement.
Strong core muscles maintain your balance, help you avoid awkward movement, and prevent unwanted strains or sprains. They also allow your body to transfer force and stress through your muscles rather than your spine, which significantly reduces your risk for back pain.
The muscles in your back keep vertebrae properly aligned and stabilize spinal joints. Abdominal muscles maintain proper spine curvature and a neutral pelvic tilt, which is important for preventing back pain.
When you contract your abdominal muscles, pressure inside your abdominal cavity increases. This activity lifts weight and pressure off your spine.
The other muscles in your core also have important roles when it comes to preventing back pain. For example, weak hip muscles affect your balance, while the gluteus muscles stabilize your hip joints. Both groups of muscles support your lower back when you’re walking.
As a collective group, the core muscles work synergistically to prevent back injuries and disc problems that can cause substantial pain and immobility.
There are many core exercises, but they’re not all appropriate for everyone. The type of exercises included in your strengthening program depend on your overall health and whether you have any injuries or weaknesses.
Your program should also achieve and maintain muscle balance by incorporating exercises that work all of your core muscles.
Considering the number of exercises and the susceptibility of your lower back to stress and overuse injuries, I encourage everyone to come in for an evaluation before starting a core strengthening program.
If you have back pain or you’ve suffered a back injury, it’s essential to get a clean bill of health before engaging in core exercises. Plus, I can recommend a regimen that’s safe for your back.
If you have questions about your core or would like to schedule an appointment, call the office or book an appointment online.