Chronic back pain and your core strength have been well researched over the years. So what exactly is your core and how do you condition it to potentially improve your chronic back pain?
First things first, strengthening your core may help your back pain but it may not be the best solution for you. It is important that before you commence any exercise program that you have a proper assessment done of your back to establish what is contributing to you pain and a program specific to your case can be developed. The information provided below is generally suitable for most back pain sufferers but should not be commenced before seeking a medical opinion. You should also only perform the exercises within your capability level and do not continue them if you experience any pain. Also remember if you are performing any of these exercises to maintain a healthy posture while doing so.
The core refers to a group of muscles of the lower torso that are important in both the stabilization and movement of the spine and pelvis. Of these muscles, the most important is a muscle named transversus abdominis. Transversus abdominis is the deepest of our abdominal muscles and forms a cylinder around the lower torso, holding everything in and stabilizing the spine. You can feel this muscle contracting just inside the top of the pelvis when you cough. To contract this muscle you simple pull your belly button in towards your spine while still breathing normally. Transversus abdominis should be contracted when performing any exercise. Core conditioning focuses on improving the strength and functioning of this muscle as well as the other muscles of the core.
Core conditioning and the exercise ball
The exercise ball is a popular and fun tool to use in core conditioning. I have always enjoyed training on a MediBall Pro (exercise ball), not just for core conditioning but to performance exercises that are training other muscle groups at the same time. There are a variety of exercises that can be performed, ranging from simple to quite complex. The simplest exercise you can perform is known as the Seated Posture Trainer . All it involves is sitting upright on the exercise ball and then slowly raising one foot off the ground whilst maintaining your balance. This type of exercise can easily be performed when watching television. Even just sitting on the ball is training your core as you need to stabilize and maintain better posture than when you are sitting in a chair.
An example of a slightly more complex exercise is the Forward Ball Roll which is performed by kneeling on the ground and resting your forearms on the ball. From here you roll the ball forward, making sure you do not allow the lower back to sag while also focusing on stabilising the shoulder blades as the arms extend overhead.
The exercise ball is a worthwhile investment to have in your home, however if you are going to buy one it is worth spending a little bit more to get a good quality ball as many of the cheaper brands fail to maintain their shape. The MediBall Pro by AOK is one of the highest rated balls on the market, made here in Australia and available through our online store https://cstcmyotherapy.com/product/mediball-pro/
When all you have is the floor…
To start some core conditioning, you don’t need to have an exercise ball or any other piece of equipment as there are plenty of exercises you can perform on the floor. The simplest of these is a Four Point Kneel. On your hands and knees, you simply contract your transversus abdominis, hold the contraction for as long as you can, and then relax. Taking this exercise a step further, once you have contracted transversus abdominis you can lift one arm or one leg off the ground slowly, trying to maintain the same body position.
Another exercise is the Lower Abdominal Coordination exercise. This is performed lying on your back with the knees and hips bent to 90° and your hands placed under your back at the level of your belly button. From this position you contract the transversus abdominis and then slowly lower one leg back down towards the ground. The aim is to maintain the same pressure on your hands throughout the movement and as soon as this pressure changes you need to stop and return to the start position.
Training the core is both fun and easy and can be done in the comfort of your own lounge room. Having a good stable and strong core will allow you to move with more efficiency, reduce the risk of injury and may potentially reduce your back pain. Training the transversus abdominis is also the secret for achieving that flat stomach, not doing sit up after sit up. So get started today on conditioning your core.