From office seats to work-from-home, studies show we may sit up to eight hours a day while awake. Our bodies have developed for movement, so constant sitting and lack of exercise can often lead to chronic back pain.
To address chronic lower back pain, we have to define the cause and build solutions from there. For example, you can reduce your low back pain by developing your deep core with targeted exercises.
Why Core Strength Matters in Combating Back Pain
Before diving into the significance of core muscles, remember that lower back pain can have multiple origins, including structural issues like spinal stenosis or herniated discs. It's essential to consult a healthcare provider to rule out these conditions.
At Park North Physical Therapy, our expert therapists will work closely with you to identify the muscular cause of your discomfort. A common source of back pain is from weak core muscles. In fact, research shows that core-strengthening exercises rank among the top remedies for alleviating back pain. Conversely, a strong core also can prevent the onset of such discomfort.
Defining Your Core Muscles
Your core refers to several muscle groups surrounding and supporting your spine and internal organs. They come in several supportive layers, the most well-known and visible being the rectus abdominis, or “abs.”
However, we also have more muscles under the superficial layer of abs that directly supports our spine, called the transverse abdominis. This layer of muscle, referred to as the deep core, works as a corset that surrounds our lower chest and waist. Because of these muscles, we can sit up straight, bend to the sides and move our bodies around.
When we don’t exercise and are sedentary for long periods of time, we lose muscle definition in our deep core. This muscle loss leads to weakening in our postural muscles and can create pain.
At Park North, we recommend that our clients practice some kind of core strengthening every day. It doesn’t always have to involve exercise, either! Here’s an easy way you can activate your core at home: draw your belly and waist inward on your exhalation as though you’re wearing a corset. This engages the deep core muscles. You can also try this simple practice while picking up something heavy in the kitchen or grocery store.
Three Simple Exercises to Target Your Deep Core
To reduce your low back pain, you shouldn’t just focus on the superficial “6-pack muscles”. You must target the deeper layer, the transverse abdominis. Deep core exercises often relate to balance and stability more than moving, so they work well for rehabilitation and disability health maintenance. Here are some beginner exercises our physical therapists at Park North recommend for deep core strength:
#1 Bird Dog/Quadruped
Lift your body onto your hands and knees. Pull your stomach in, supporting your core. Make sure your head and neck are in line with your back.
Reach out with your right arm and hold for a few seconds. Calmly bring your right arm back in, then extend your left leg behind you. Hold the position for a few seconds before returning to the base position.
First, start by doing one limb at a time. Later, you can try extending an opposite arm and leg at the same time.
#2 Heel Taps
Laying on your back, place your hands under your buttocks and lift your legs in the air. Slowly lower one of your legs until the heel taps against the ground. Return it to the upward position without bending your knee.
Then, repeat, counting a heel tap from each foot as one set.
#3 Donkey Kicks
On your hands and knees, tighten your core and extend your left leg backward as far as possible. Squeezing your glutes, return to the starting position calmly. Switch to your right leg, and count both leg extensions as a single set.
Get Help with Chronic Back Pain at Park North Physical Therapy
At Park North Physical Therapy, we use innovative technology along with hands-on physical therapy to help you reach your goals. Coupled with our Pilates equipment, we can help you reduce your low back pain by targeting your deep core and other muscle groups.
Learn more from our physical therapists by booking an appointment with Park North Physical Therapy today! Visit us at our Harlem or Morningside Heights locations in New York City.