Did you know that working your core might be making your low back pain worse?

Continuing with the fitness theme, I’m covering a very common misconception today.  So many people have heard that to prevent low back pain you need to strengthen your core.  And while it is true that a strong core helps support your back, if you have either acute or chronic low back pain…

…There’s almost certainly more to the story.

What matters is what’s causing the pain in the first place!

I’ll circle back to that in a moment.

One way the “do more core” advice is misguided is there are many muscles that form the core of our bodies.  But most people are focusing only on the rectus abdominis (these are the muscles on the front of the belly we think of when we say someone has a “six-pack”).

Granted, there are aesthetic reasons for this too.

Often, trainees are trying to tackle belly fat the wrong way by doing tons of abs.

(Diet and overall body fat have more to do with your success there, in fact.)

But there’s also the transversus (deep-lying abdominal muscles)…not to mention the hip flexors, glutes, and piriformis…even to some extent the hamstrings.  It’s the whole bunch working together that make up a strong core.

If your hip flexors are weak…

If your glutes aren’t firing (meaning they’re not as involved as they should be)…

Or, if your hamstrings are tight…

Doing planks or crunches could make low back pain worse!  Or even CREATE low back pain down the road if you don’t have it now.  All of the above is why, if you have any low back symptoms, step #1 is to have the situation assessed by a pro.

Remember, your body functions with balance.

And it’s the dose that makes a poison or a cure.

Too much of a good thing is…well, not so good any more.  Be conscious of taking advice like “strengthen your core” too literally or as an excuse to neglect other facets of a healthy exercise program.  Doctors waiting rooms are full of “weekend warriors” who made that very same mistake.

Anyway, that’s all for this week.

I hope you’ll hear my words and beware the “Ab-pocalypse” of belly-blasting gadgets and lengthy ab-only fitness classes out there.

Don’t even get me started on what they could do to your posture. ;-)


Dr. Josh