The lower back and the role of core stabilising muscles
When you have any sort of back pain, the core stabilisers, including the muscles adjacent to your spine don’t function very well. These muscles normally activate involuntarily, milliseconds prior to movement, such as getting out of a chair, walking or bending. They keep the spine stable and well positioned while the moving muscles do their job of operating arms, legs and trunk as you move. This relationship between moving muscles and stabilising muscles allows for the most efficient and effective movement patterns, and keeps you moving well.
These stabilising muscles become inhibited and don’t do their job well when you experience back pain. They time poorly with your moving muscles (coming on after the movement has occurred) and consequently don’t do the stabilising job they are meant to do. They become weaker (especially if the pain is chronic and ongoing) allowing too much movement and instability to occur at the spine when it should be supported while you move.
Therefore, if you have back pain it is vital that you work specifically on those back muscles and your core stabilisers to improve their strength to keep your spine stable and help break the pattern of pain and weakness.
Voluntarily activating the deep core stabilisers before and during activity such as walking, getting out of a chair, going up and down stairs, or even rolling over in bed, is vital to help restore normal movement patterns and reduce pain. You need to engage these muscles consciously, and if done properly can help reduce lower back pain.
Engaging these muscles can be tricky because they are not muscles, we normally have to consciously control. There are several ways it can be achieved, and people tend to vary on how they do this. Try some of the following and you can work out which one is best for you. The aim is to keep stability around the lumbopelvic region but also allow you to breathe!
Three tips for strengthening your core stabilising muscles
- Engage your pelvic floor – pull up between your legs like you are stopping urination midstream but don’t squeeze your buttocks
- Draw your belly button in towards your spine and brace the abdominals just before lifting and moving. Don’t forget to breathe.
- Walk tall like a model and imagine you have a wire up through the centre of your spine lifting you up.
Bracing around your abdomen before you move is important. It is also important to ensure the pelvic floor muscles are not compromised by exerting too much downward pressure.
Try these prior to moving and see if it helps reduce the lower back pain. You need to do this often throughout the day because the stabilizing muscles fatigue or tire very quickly when they have not been functioning well for a long time.
Importantly, keep working towards getting stronger and fitter in everything you do so you can keep doing the things you want and need to be doing, Deb.