Low back pain is one of the most common health complaints, and most often, one of the main areas of focus during a massage.
A seated posture, which causes a backward tilt of the pelvis, and the shortening and weakening of the core muscles can contribute to lower back pain. The pain can also be triggered by overuse, misuse, muscle strain, or injury to the ligaments or discs. If an injury is not managed properly, it can lead to an overall imbalance in the spine and cause issues higher up in the back.
Research has shown that strengthening the muscles of the core can greatly improve low back pain. Stabilization exercises are aimed at improving endurance, strength, and neuromuscular control of the muscles central to maintaining spinal stability.
Anatomy of the Core Muscles
The first group are the deep core muscles These muscles help with the extension, side to side flexion and rotation of the spine. Because these muscles attach directly to the spine, they are integral to segmental spinal stability and maintaining the spine at neutral.:
- Transverse Abdominis
- Internal Obliques
- Lumbar Multifidus
The second group, which are more superficial muscles. These muscles do not attach directly to the spine, but connect the pelvis to the mid-back ribs and upper leg bones. This group helps to counterbalance external forces impacting the spine, therefore also helping with spinal stability.
- Rectus Abdominis
- External Obliques
- Erector Spinae
- Quadratus Lumborum
- and the muscles of the hip joint
When both layers of core muscles are strong and functioning normally, they can support the lower back and help prevent injury to the joints and intervertebral discs.
Strengthening for the Core Muscles
Engaging the core muscles is often not something that most people do consciously. It is important to learn how to effectively co-contract the muscles of the core while performing the following exercises. Coordination and balance is important as well, as the core muscles must contract consecutively to keep the core conditioned. The following are exercises to strengthen the abdomen and core.
Supine Dead Bug
Lie on your back with your knees lifted off the ground and bent at 90 degrees. Hold your arms out in front of you at shoulder level. Brace your abdomen and allow your right arm and left leg to lower slowly until they are just above the floor. Then lift both limbs back to the starting position and repeat with the other arm and leg. Make sure to keep your lower back on the ground and your shoulders away from your ears. Complete 10 sets on each side.
Kneel on all fours with your hands and knees hip width apart. As you brace your abdomen, lift your right arm straight out in front of you while extending your left leg behind you. Squeeze through the glutes. Keep your hips square with the ground. Hold for 3 seconds and return your hand and knee back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Complete 3 sets of 10 on each side.
Start on all fours on the floor with your hands stacked under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Step back one leg at a time, actively squeezing your heels and glutes together and pulling your belly button to your spine. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat 5 times.
Lie on your right side with your legs extended and stacked at your ankles. The elbow of your right arm shoulder be directly under your shoulder and your left arm is resting on your left side. Engage your abdomen muscle and lift your hips and knees from the ground. Your torso should be in a straight line without any sagging or bending. Hold the position for 15-30 seconds before lowering back down to the ground. Repeat on the other side.
Hollow Man Hold
Lie on you back and contract your abdomen, pulling your belly button towards the floor and tucking your tailbone under. Keep your arms at your sides. Slowly raise your head, shoulders, arms and legs off the ground, and keep your lower back in contact with the floor. The goal is to find the lowest position that you can hold your arms and legs without them touching the floor, and without lifting your lower back off the ground. Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat.
These exercises will help to build strength and balance in your core muscles, and in turn will help protect your lower back. It is important to keep your core strong and healthy, regardless of your profession or level of activity!
This article/video is for educational purposes only; do not attempt without your physician’s clearance. If you are in pain or injured, see your physician.
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