Nagging lower back pain is incredibly common. Yet, many people accept it as a new way of life. Or, perhaps just a part of gradually getting older.
That doesn’t need to be the case. And, what a shame it would be to just accept pain into your day-to-day life! Sometimes, lower back pain stems from a more serious injury that requires medical treatment, but the majority of lower back issues could benefit tremendously from something relatively simple: a stronger core. The good news is that core strengthening is accessible to almost everyone through implementing the right exercises consistently at home.
Let’s explore why core strengthening is a powerhouse for treating lower back pain, plus some of the best exercises you can implement at home to get started on your journey to better back health.
Why A Strong Core Is Beneficial For Back Pain Treatment
For starters, it’s important to understand what the “core” actually is. Many people think of a strong core as having defined six-pack abs, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Your core is made up of:
- Front abdominal muscles – yes, that commonly identified “six-pack” area
- Obliques – the muscles that run along the sides of your body and abdominals
- The transverse abdominal – a deep muscle that sits below your obliques and wraps around your spine
- Erector spinae and multifidus – muscles that run along your spine
All of these muscles work together to give your body stability, balance, and strength. They also help to protect your spine. If these muscles are weak or lack proper strength, your body will begin pulling from other areas of the body for structure— namely, your spine and the ligaments that surround it. This can begin to put strain on these important structures and lead to back pain. Conversely, if these muscles are well-kept and stable, they act as protectors, alleviating pressure and strain.
Not only can core strengthening jumpstart your recovery timeline, but it can also act as a preventative against back injury as well. The better shape that you keep these muscles in, the better you’re protecting your back area. So, even after you’ve kicked back pain to the curb, continue with these exercises for your own health and injury prevention.
Exercise #1: Plank Exercises
The plank is a great exercise to engage your entire core. You can rotate between front, side, and back planks to be sure you’re hitting each side of the core area.
To begin a plank, place your forearms on the ground, directly under your shoulders, but parallel to the rest of your body. Extend your legs back behind you, lifting your body up into a straight “plank” motion while pressing your toes into the ground. To hold this motion, you’ll notice that you need to engage the muscles in and around your abdominals.
For a reverse plank, take the opposite stance on your back, with your forearms anchored to the ground and your heels extended out. You should feel it in your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes, and if your core is properly engaged, in your abs as well.
For a side plank, plant one forearm to the ground, your other hand on your outer hip, and push up as the side of your foot acts as your lower grounding point.
Hold each of these plank positions for 15-30 seconds at a time, interspersing brief rest intervals between holds as needed.
If you would like to ease into this exercise, you can start by performing this plank with bent knees anchoring you to the ground, instead of the full extension to your toes.
Alternately, If you’ve been doing plank exercises for a while and want to increase the level of intensity, you can try adding some movement to each hold. For example, try lifting alternating feet while you’re holding a front plank. Or, while holding a side plank, take the top arm, rotate it under your body, bring it back up, and repeat. The burn will intensify with the added challenge of subtle movement with each hold.
Exercise #2: Bridges
This exercise begins while lying on your back, with your knees bent. Before moving, tighten your core muscles and squeeze your glutes. Then, lift your hips up off of the floor. Hold in the end position for 3-5 seconds. This exercise helps to engage both your front abdominal muscles, as well as those helpful muscles that run along your spine.
Repeat this exercise 8-10 times.
Exercise #3: Bird-Dogs
Begin this exercise by kneeling on all fours, with your knees lined up beneath your hips and your arms under your shoulders. Engage your core muscles, then extend your right arm directly out in front of you, while simultaneously extending your left leg back. To add movement, draw both your arm and leg under your body, tap your right palm to your left knee, and then return to your starting position on all fours. As you move through this exercise, you’ll find that you need your core strength to keep balance and stability without losing control of the movement.
Repeat this exercise on each side 5-10 times.
Exercise #4: Dead Bugs
You’ll begin this exercise on your back, with your arms extended up straight from your shoulders and your legs bent at 90 degrees, with your knees lifted up over your hips. You can think of this as a “reverse” tabletop position. Engage your core muscles, keeping your lower back pressed to the ground, and slowly drop your right arm overhead while extending your left leg out at the same time. Hover each just above the ground for 1-2 seconds before returning to your starting position. Repeat on the other side. You should feel your core muscles engaged and helping to stabilize you, as you perform slow, smooth motions throughout this exercise.
Repeat this exercise 5-8 times on each side.
Exercise #5: Windshield Wipers
Again, you’ll begin this exercise on your back with your hands by your side. Bend your legs at 90 degrees, keeping your knees over your hips. Engage your core, press your lower back to the ground, keeping your knees together while you slowly lower your legs to your left side as far as you can without moving your body on the ground. Once you’ve found your end range, slowly lift your legs back up toward your center and repeat on the other side. This entire movement should be performed slow, controlled, and deliberate.
Repeat this exercise 5-8 times on each side.
How Chiropractic Can Help Treat Lower Back Pain
If you’re looking to knock your lower back pain out for good, it’s best to combine at-home exercise with the correct treatment.
A great way that you can support your lower back, both through recovery from injury and with preventative care, is by seeking out chiropractic treatment. Chiropractic adjustments of the spine can help realign your body to keep the nervous and immune systems functioning properly while addressing any injuries, aches, or pains that may pop up from day-to-day life. Oftentimes, individuals unknowingly have a misalignment of the spine that can cause a myriad of pain patterns – which chiropractic care and adjustments can help to alleviate.