How Can You Strengthen Your Core & Reduce Chronic Low Back Pain?

Side plank for lower back pain Apr27th 2020

The Top 4 Exercises That Will Reduce Chronic Low Back Pain.  

According to a 2006 study(1) nearly half of the United States population will suffer from Chronic Lower Back Pain (CLBP) at some point, and another study(2) indicates that chronic lower back pain is the most frequently reported symptom of orthopedic diseases in the United States. This means, its really common! You or someone you know is likely dealing with the daily challenge of chronic low back pain.

There are many genetic and lifestyle factors that seem to contribute to low back pain including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and improper posture and movements. Also, there are many reasons for low back pain that are unknown or complex. However, one major cause that can be addressed with physical therapy is the weakening of our shallow and deep core muscles.  

Shallow and Deep Core Muscles

Both shallow and deep core muscles together help form spinal stability. The deep core muscles primarily include the transversus abdominis, lumbar multifidus, internal oblique muscle, and the quadratus lumborum. These muscles work to provide spine segmental stability, precise motor control and keep the spine in a neutral position. The shallow muscle group includes rectus abdominis, internal and external oblique muscles, erector spinae, and some of the hip muscles. These muscles do not directly attach to the spine but, they still help with spinal stability; They connect the pelvis to legs and the ribs. Therefore, these muscles also help protect and stabilize the spine.  

Studies(3,4,5,6) have examined the results of core strength training regiments and the correlation with chronic lower back pain. There is a correlation with the wasting (decrease in strength) of the deep core muscles and chronic lower back pain (1). These studies indicate that strengthening the deep core muscles can have a significant impact on improving lower back pain that is chronic.

Here are 4 exercises the will engage the deep core muscles. Each selected exercise is paired with a specific muscle that it activates. Keep in mind that many other muscles are also engaged from the exercises. If you suffer from chronic low back pain it’s time to implement these exercises into your life.  

The Top 4 Exercises for Core Strength

THE BIRD DOG 

The lumbar multifidus is great to strengthen for reducing lower back pain. This muscle is long and slender and runs beside the spine on both sides of the spine. Think of the spine as the rungs on a ladder and the multifidus as the railing. The Bird Dog will do a fantastic job of engaging the multifidus which will increase spine stability.  

In order to perform The Bird Dog begin on your hands and knees with your shoulders above your wrists and your hips above your knees. Then, while keeping your back straight and engaging your abdominals, extend one leg backward until fully straightened and parallel to the floor. While maintaining this position, extend the opposite arm similarly. Then hold this position for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.  

THE BRIDGE 

The bridge is a wonderful exercise for engaging the transverse abdominis. This deep core muscle is the innermost abdominal muscle and raps around the body between the top of the pelvis and the ribs– think of a corset. This muscle acts in stabilizing before movement occurs.  

In order to perform the bridge, lie face up with your back on the ground, knees bent, and feet flatly placed on the floor. Your legs and hips should form a triangle. From this position engage your glut and abdominals thrusting up to the ceiling until your body forms a straight line from your neck to your knees. After this, return to the original position and repeat.  

SAXON SIDE BENDS 

Saxon Side Bends work to activate the internal obliques. These muscles are located on your left and right side just above the hips. They are deeper than the external obliques, but not as deep as the transverse abdominis. These muscles again play a large role in spinal stability.  

To perform the Saxon Side Bend, place your hands above your head with a slight bend in the elbow. With feet shoulder width apart, lean your upper body to the right as far as you can without moving your lower body and then return to the original position. Perform on the opposite side and then repeat. This exercise is best done with light weight to begin with.  

SIDE PLANK 

The side plank is an exercise that will work the quadratus lumborum. The quadratus lumborum is very deep and just outside of the multifidus on both sides. This muscle is crucial to spinal movement and stability.  

To execute the side plank, begin in a traditional plank position. Here you will be face down with forearms and toes touching the ground. From here, rotate to one side so that only one foot and forearm are making contact with the ground. Finally, make sure to engage your core in such a way that your body is straight and your hips are not sagging.  

If you need assistance with your chronic low back pain, come see us at ReQuest Physical Therapy.

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