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When to Strengthen Your Core for Lower Back Pain Relief

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Written By Holly Gish

You may have heard that strengthening your core can bring you some relief. But what does that mean? What exactly should be strengthened? Learn how core strengthening can help you, and when to see a professional.

More than six-pack abs. Core muscles for stability!:

Mention core muscles, and most people think of the abs, or “six-pack” area on the stomach. While the rectus abdominus (those pretty six-pack muscles) are an important part of the core, there are many other muscles that work together to create a stable pelivs, back, and torso.

Your core stabilizer muscles include:

  • The rectus abdominis- flexors.
  • The internal and external obliques- rotators.
  • The transverse abdominal – aides breathing and stabilizes hips and lower back.
  • The erector spinae and multifidi- back stabilizers, help with spinal extension and rotation.


Core Muscles

Your core also includes your diaphragm, muscles of the pelvic floor, hip flexors, and gluteal muscles.


Less stable=more pain:

Common sense says that, if the muscles holding up your torso are weak, your body will rely more on passive structures for stability. This may involve passive use of ligaments (the tissue connection bone to bone), bones or discs which lie between the spinal bones. This can cause pain.

However, performing core exercises may not be more beneficial than general exercise for low back pain. We do know that exercise in general can help, and assuring proper torso and hip stability via effective contraction of core muscles may provide a greater benefit.

Strengthening the core and creating stability:

We’ve provided our favorite core stabilizing exercises to help bring general stability to your torso and hips.

  •  Side plank
  • Plank
  • Bird Dogs
  • Glute Bridges —

  • Chin Tucks —
  • Thoracic Mobility —


Lower Back Pain Contraindications: 

Everyone’s body is different, so not all exercises, even core exercises, are recommended for those with lower back pain.

Twisting exercises, repetitive flexion (sit-ups), or even incorrectly completing the exercises above, can cause pain. Make sure to move slowly, with control, and follow the exercise cues and feedback from your body. It is unlikely that one repetition of an exercise will do serious harm, but the best way to keep your body safe is to listen to body cues. Pay close attention to pain during and immediately after an exercise.

Should I see a doctor for my back pain?:

If you experience any of the following back problems, consult with your doctor:

  • Your pain wakes you from sleep.
  • Your pain has been going on for longer than a month, despite resting from activities that make it worse.
  • Your pain is getting worse.
  • Your pain is in your low back but also is going down one or both of your legs.
  • You notice that one leg is becoming weaker than the other.

If you’re not sure, contact your physical therapist!

At Specht, our physical therapists are musculoskeletal experts, qualified professionals that are trained to assess back issues and pain.

There are many factors and different reasons causing low back pain. Consider booking a consultation with one of our physical therapist at least once for an evaluation and to receive an effective and safe plan of care. Specht provides individually tailored plans, providing safe and effective exercises and strategies. Strengthening the core, while beneficial, is just one piece of the low back pain puzzle.

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