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Back Pain? Try Core Strengthening


I get lots of questions of back pain in my daily practice.Here’s a few tips to “cure” not simply cover the symptom.


Nearly everyone experiences back pain now and then. Some have more problems than others and some problems are very significant. The vast majority of back pain comes from muscular weakness or de-conditioning. (= YOUR OUT OF SHAPE)


In my clinical experience many patients have less back pain when they focus on strengthening their core muscle groups. These areas include abdominal and lower back muscles. In addition to strengthening, focusing on flexibility can make a difference in muscular related pain. (As a side note….both core strengthening and flexibility activities BOTH decrease tendencies toward injury, back strain, or more serious long term back problems.


What kind of exercises are best. In the purest sense I like a few key exercises to start with. Start each according to your own ability and challenge yourself but don’t push through obvious severe pain.




  • Abdominal crunches: Tighten and release your lower abdominal muscles, slightly lifting your upper back off the floor. Not a full sit-up, knees bent, NOT yanking your neck forward. This exercise done perhaps 3-4 sets of 10-20 will lead to firmer abdominal muscles, which, when strong, take the load off your lower back = Less muscle related back pain. Build up in number of reps or sets as you progress. Work up to 3-4 days weekly.


  • Back Arches: Lying flat on your belly, arms outstretched above your head, arch your back and “reach upwards” Your legs should also gently arch away from the floor. Try 3-4 sets of perhaps 5-10 reps each depending on how you feel. Advance as mentioned with crunches.


  • Planks: Set up in a push up position (Knees on the ground if necessary) Hold yourself in the up position for a count of 15-30. Rest, repeat. Try 4 x 15 seconds. This involves abdominal, back, shoulders and leg core muscles.


  • Straight leg stretches: Sitting on your bottom, legs extended, gently lean forward, knees slightly bent. You should feel a gentle pull to the buttocks, hamstrings and lower back. Count to 30 and repeat.


  • Hamstring Pulls: Lay flat on your back, gentle pull one, then the other, then both knees towards your chest. This gently stretches the lower back, and buttocks.


Try these exercises / stretches 3-4 times a week PLUS go walking 20 min 3 times weekly. Most muscular, de-conditioning back pain melts away with the listed regimen.




OK, here’ the disclaimer:


The following are a list of what I call “RED FLAG” symptoms. These symptoms indicate a serious back problem that you should seek formal workup prior to simply relying on these exercise therapies.


    1. History of cancer
    2. Abdominal pain
    3. Unexplained weight loss >10 kg within 6 months
    4. Age over 50 years or under 17 years old
    5. Failure to improve with therapy (As described above)
    6. Pain persists for more than 4 to 6 weeks
    7. Night pain or pain at rest
    8. Urinary Incontinence or retention
    9. Saddle anesthesia: Numbness in the groin or rectal area
    10. Anal sphincter tone decreased or Fecal Incontinence
    11. Bilateral lower extremity weakness or numbness
    12. Progressive neurologic deficit


IF your a visual learner….check out the following link. It has some pictures, several of the exercises I described above are listed there.



Good luck! I hope this helps you take some control of your back pain! Feel free to comment or shoot questions. The Tribe is always here to help!



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