Low-back pain is the most common chronic or long- lasting pain issue in the U.S. with 60% to 80% of adults dealing with it at some time in their lives. Many conditions can lead to low-back pain, but poor core strength is often the fundamental factor. With the increased number of sedentary jobs and all the time we spend sitting, this can lead to muscle imbalances and weak core muscles which put the lower back at an increased risk of stress or injury.
- Our deep core muscles are meant to endure prolonged contractions to support and stabilize the spine while standing or sitting in an erect position. Therefore, when we slouch in a chair all day, the core remains relatively inactive leading to decreased brain signals to the core, telling it to “turn on” and protect the spine when necessary.
- The psoas major muscle is a strong hip flexor. Sitting can shorten this muscle, putting chronic stress on the low back.
- The gluteal muscles, which are the hip extensors, become lengthened and weak. These muscles are then unable to do their job in regular activities of daily living, forcing other muscles, such as those in the low back, to compensate. Avoiding sitting is completely is unrealistic, but exercise can help minimize your chances of developing lower back pain.
Below are five suggested exercises.
- Plank. Perform one to three planks holding for 20-60 seconds, or as long as you can maintain proper form.
- Side Plank. The side plank may be more beneficial than a standard plank because it requires activation of the internal and external obliques. Again, maintain proper form.
- Back extension. Back extensions help strengthen your posterior side. Use proper form; a avoid extending past 180 degrees (where the upper body is higher than the legs).
- Glute raises or bridge. Weak gluteal muscles contribute to lower back pain. The gluteal muscles support activities like walking, running, squatting and deadlifting, but when they lack sufficient strength, the back takes over.
- Bird Dog. To perform this movement properly, the trunk should remain stable, while only the arms and legs move.
For a full description of the above exercises, check them out online or talk to a Personal Trainer for professional guidance about lower back health.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.