Is core strengthening important for reduction in back ache ?

Core Strengthening

What is your core ?

When most people think about the core of the body they think of the abdominal or six-pack area just below the ribs. While the abdominal muscles are an important part of the core, it includes a lot more. The core of the body is broadly considered to be torso.

The core includes:

  • Front abdominal muscles — The rectus abdominis
  • Muscles along the sides of your body — The internal and external obliques
  • A deep muscle that wraps around the front lower abdominal area — The transverse abdominis
  • Muscles in your back that are located between your spine bones and run along your spine — The erector spinae and multifidi
  • Deep abdominal / back muscle – Quadratus Lumborum
  • Cervical muscles - Rectus capitus anterior & lateralis, Longus coli
  • The core also includes the diaphragm, muscles of the pelvic floor & gluteal muscles.

If you suffer from back pain, you’ve probably heard that strengthening your core can bring you some relief. But is this always true.

The Significance of Core Strength:

If you think about it, your core is in the centre of your body. It needs to be strong to support the weight of your entire body, including your back and neck. This is especially important for low back pain sufferers, adding core strengthening to your exercise routine can help prevent or reduce your back pain. By boosting your core strength it will help in maintaining your posture, spinal alignment, balance, and stability.It's essential for overall movement effectiveness, quality of life and injury prevention.

Many people have back pain whether it's upper back pain or low back pain which may be partly caused by weak abdominal muscles. Since your abs are the front anchor of your spine, if they are weak, then the other structures supporting your spinewill have to work harder. By developing stronger core muscles, you'll be less likely to injure or strain your back muscles as they take the pressure off your back (from structures like spinal vertebras & discs) and help align your spine.

As our body miraculously compensates for muscular weakness, if your core muscles are weak, your body will rely on muscles, ligaments, tendons, and spinal discs to keep you sitting or standing upright. Chronic strain on these structures tends to create poor posture and pain in the back and hips.

Strengthening all of these muscles reduces the strain on your back and helps relieve or prevent pain. These muscles provide stability to your trunk. They keep your bones aligned properly so that there are no abnormal stresses on your joints. A strong core also helps your balance, which will prevent falls and enable you to exercise and conduct daily activities easily.

It's important to incorporate exercises that work all of your abdominal and core muscles equally. Your core most often acts as a stabilizer and force transfer centre rather than a prime mover. Yet consistently people focus on training their core as a prime mover and in isolation. This would be doing crunches or back extensions versus functional movements like deadlifts, overhead squats, and push-ups, among many other functional closed chain exercises.Studies have shown that core stabilization exercise is more effective than routine physical therapy exercise in terms of greater reduction in pain in patients with non-specific low back pain.

Thus, a strong core is your best guard against back pain although the idea of core strengthening, while beneficial, is just another piece of the low back pain puzzle.

Dr.Shriya Patel (PT)