One of the most common symptoms I discuss on daily basis is lower back pain. That’s not a surprise, considering lower back pain is the most common musculoskeletal ailment in the United States. Chiropractic adjustments and therapeutic exercise can certainly help relieve and treat lower back pain, but what a lot of people don’t know is that core strength can actually help with pain management and can even assist in preventing lower back pain in the first place.
First, let’s discuss what your “core” actually is. Contrary to popular belief, your core is not just visible ab muscles in the front of your body. Your core is a cylinder of ab and back muscles that wraps around your body. Because of its cylindrical nature, your core has the potential to help keep you upright, in proper alignment and allows you to move comfortably and properly. If your core is weak, more stress is put on your ligaments and bones and in turn you will put yourself at greater risk for disc problems, increasing your chance of injury.
So, how do you go about strengthening your core? Let’s go beyond the standard sit-up method and focus on your core as a whole with these exercises:
- Forearm plank. This one is a relatively advanced exercise because it works so many important muscles (all of your core!) but the execution is pretty simple. This exercise is great for those even just starting to exercise because it helps you learn what it actually feels like to engage your core.
- With your forearms on the floor, make sure your elbows are directly underneath your shoulders with your arms parallel. Extend your legs straight out and perch up onto your toes. Squeeze not only your core, but your glutes and quads, too, in order to keep your lower back straight at all times. Think of keeping a straight line from your head to your heels the entire time. Take care to not dip your hips or lifting your butt up during the duration of the exercise. Hold this as long as you can, taking breaks when needed.
- Scissor crunches.
- Lie flat on your back, keeping your arms at your sides or supporting your neck. Lift both legs up in the air (as straight as you can, anyway). Keeping them as straight as possible, lower one leg until your foot almost brushes the floor, then lift it back up–slowly! Alternate to the other side. Do 12-16 of these and take a rest in between sets of 3-4.
- Toe taps.
- Lie on your back and lift your legs again, but bend your knees so that they are parallel to the floor — we call this a tabletop position. Lower one foot toward the floor until your toe almost touches the ground, then lift it slowly back up to the starting position and do the same for the other foot. Make sure you keep your lower back pressed into the floor and not lifted off it. Do 12-16 of these and take a rest between sets of 3-4.
- Bird dog.
- Balance in a hands and knees position with your back straight and your neck in a neutral position. Remaining balanced, lift your right leg straight out and lift your left arm up straight ahead of you. Slowly lower both your right leg and left arm back to the starting position. Then, switch to your left leg and right arm. Move slowly so that you remain in balance — this is key for core activation! Do 10-12 of these, sets of 3 or 4.
- Lie face down on the floor with your arms extended straight out ahead of you. Keep your hands in line with your shoulders and your feet in line with your hips, try to not allow your arms or legs to drift too far apart. Activate your glutes and pinch your shoulder blades together, then raise your arms, legs, and chest of the floor simultaneously. Hold for 2-3 seconds, then slowly lower to the floor. Repeat this motion 10-12 times, 3-4 sets.
Adding in these exercises to your routine a total of 3 times per week will really help prevent lower back aches and pains and help you move comfortably. However, do not attempt these if your lower back pain is sharp, numb, or causes pain to travel down your leg or further up your back. In those cases, schedule a consultation with me at 920-499-3333. We can work together on a treatment and exercise plan fit for your needs.
Best of health,