Chronic lower back pain is a common reason for starting a physical therapy program. It has a variety of causes. And we do know that core stability is at the center of spinal health. That’s why we are constantly exploring new ways to strengthen the core. Not only can these stability exercises be used in a preventative manner, but they can also help patients recover from a variety of conditions, from athletic injuries to total hip arthroplasty.
What is the Core?
Your core is comprised of a couple groups of small “local” stabilization muscles located beneath the abdominal wall. Namely: the transversus abdominis, lumbar multifidus, internal oblique muscle, and quadratus lumborum.
With names like those, it’s no wonder these groups of muscles are the most overlooked.
Still, even though you can’t see these muscle groups, they are constantly at work throughout most of the day. Keeping these muscles balanced and strong is key to avoiding lower back pain.
Five Simple Core Exercises
- Physioball crunches. You probably know how to do abdominal crunches. Now add a physioball into the equation to really engage your stabilizers. Feet on the floor, hips just off the physioball. Lift your shoulders off the ball by performing a crunch. Three sets of ten to twenty repetitions, making sure to hold at the top for a second or two.
- Opposite arm, opposite leg. For this one, you’ll be on all fours with your head straight. Now, lift your leg until it’s straight while simultaneously lifting your opposite arm. Three sets of ten to twenty repetitions.
- Butt lifts. An oldie but a goodie. Lie down with your back to the floor, feet and hands flat. Engage your core to lift your hips toward the sky. Three sets of ten to twenty repetitions, and take it slow!
- Do the superman. Lie down on your stomach, arms and legs splayed out. Simultaneously lift your arms and legs toward the sky, being sure to engage your core, lower back, butt, and hamstrings to perform the lift. Three sets of ten repetitions.
- Planks. My personal favorite. Keep your back straight as you rest on your elbows and toes, forming a “Plank.” Hold this position from thirty to sixty seconds. Repeat three times. As you progress, you can add in side Planks.
That’s just a sampling of the many abdominal exercises and progressions. But it’s a great place to start. Oh, and I almost forgot: be sure “engage” your core throughout each of the exercises listed above. This will help maximize the impact these exercises have on your core strength and stability.