Quick: What’s one of the easiest things you can do to strengthen your back and lessen or eliminate chronic back pain? Did you answer: “Build my core?” If so, give yourself a big pat on that strong back and go hit the gym!
The truth is that back pain is an epidemic. WebMD reports that, “About 25% of Americans are affected by back pain in a given year, and they spend more time at the doctor’s office for back pain than for any other medical condition except high blood pressure and diabetes.”
You don’t have to be suffering through back pain; sometimes treating it can be as easy as doing a few key exercises every day. Building core strength through abdominal, lower abdominal, and oblique muscles can have a surprising, positive effect on back pain, reducing, and, in some cases, alleviating it entirely—not to mention the nice, lean look it can give you through your middle. If you’re not concentrating on this key area of your body, you may be making a costly mistake.
“Those who have strong core muscles have a reduced rate of lower back and lower extremity injuries,” said Melbourne Sports and Chiropractic, as well as “greater injury prevention.”
The reason? “A lot of back pain is due to postural alignment problems,” said WebMD. “If you catch it soon enough and correct the problem with exercise and strengthening, you can avoid future pain.”
The Abs-Back Connection
If you haven’t previously thought about how strong abs can strengthen your back, it all makes sense once you look at the relationship. “Think of your core muscles as the sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body. Whether you’re hitting a tennis ball or mopping the floor, the necessary motions either originate in your core, or move through it,” said Harvard Medical School. “No matter where motion starts, it ripples upward and downward to adjoining links of the chain. A strong, flexible core underpins almost everything you do.”
Doing a few exercises every day can help give you a stronger back (and the abs you want for a lean waistline).
“Low back pain — a debilitating, sometimes excruciating problem affecting four out of five Americans at some point in their lives — may be prevented by exercises that promote well-balanced, resilient core muscles,” they said. “When back pain strikes, a regimen of core exercises is often prescribed to relieve it, coupled with medications, physical therapy, or other treatments if necessary.”
Remember to take precautions if you are injured and/or in severe pain. And before you embark on any workout program, you’ll want to consult with your doctor.
Planking is a great way to strengthen your core muscles to support your back. The basic plank is done resting on your hands or forearms and toes, with effort made to keep your abdominal muscles tight and your back straight. Holding the position for longer and longer periods as you get stronger will help you see results.
Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet about shoulder-length apart, and arms to your side. Isolate and tighten your lower abdominal muscles—those below your belly button. Bend your pelvis up slightly and pull your lower back toward the floor. Hold for 5–10 seconds and repeat.
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and arms crossed over your chest. Using your upper abdominal muscles, raise your trunk off of the floor slightly, hold for 5–10 seconds, lower and repeat. Be sure to keep your head and neck flat against the floor so you don’t create neck strain.
Water exercise is a great way to strengthen your core in a low-impact manner. Try Leg Lifts standing in the pool and holding onto the side, raising and lowering one leg at a time toward the front in a slow kicking motion.
An exercise ball is another great tool to use for low-impact core exercises. Try Back Extensions, laying on your stomach over the ball with your legs straight and up on your toes. Rest your hands on the side of ball and slowly lift your head and chest up off the ball without using your arms. Hold for at least 5 seconds and repeat.
When exercise isn’t enough
In some cases, chronic pain and serious conditions like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, vertebral fractures, and degenerative disc disease will require surgery, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. The good news for those suffering from chronic pain are the advances in minimally invasive surgical techniques that mean treating chronic back pain is easier than ever, with outpatient surgical treatments, small incisions, and a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay.
Have questions or would like more information? Contact us at the DISC Spine Institute, we are experts in minimally invasive treatments for chronic back pain, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain.