Home Lower Back Pain introduction to abdominal training
Are you suffering from lower back pain?
You may have heard that training your core muscles is the key to curing lower back pain, but what does that mean?
Your spine works best when it is in a neutral spine position maintaining what is called a lordotic curve in the lumbar (lower) spine. It needs to have just the right amount of curve going in at the lower back out at the middle back and then in again towards the neck. Generally speaking these are a series of 30° arcs. When the spine is in this shape the pressure between the discs it is much more even and less likely to pinch the nerves emanating from between the discs that supply the muscles.
If you thought of the spine as a curvy upright stick we need the stick to be balanced so that it doesn't fall over. Once the stick starts to lean one way or the other gravity tries to pull it further down. Remember that the spine is holding weight at the top. Your head alone is around 4-5kg which is about the same as a big bowling ball. If your ‘bowling ball’ is starting to fall forward the spine is getting pulled with it so the muscles have to work harder to maintain an upright posture. This also applies to the muscular structure of your shoulders and arms.
So basically we want to keep everything balanced. If you are balanced it is less effort to keep everything upright and the muscles don't have to work as hard.
The stability of the pelvis and spine and everything that attaches to it (which is everything else) is created by the tension of the muscles all working in unison. If the tension of the muscles is even on all sides the spine will stay upright, if there is an imbalance it will fall towards the side with increased tension. Our goal is to identify which muscles are weaker so that we can give them targeted exercise to increase their tension. Also which muscles are tighter so that we can give them targeted exercises to reduce their tension. Stretching the tight muscles is a good start but not enough. If your movement patterns and muscle weakness’s are not corrected they will just tighten up again.
Your spine starts from the pelvis so if the pelvis is tipped forward or backwards this makes a big difference upon the shape of your spine and how hard the muscles have to work to keep you upright. Imagine if your pelvis was a bowl, if the bowl is held level everything stays in place and your spine has a good starting point. If the bowl is tipped forward everything pours out the front. If the bowl is tipped backwards everything falls down over your bottom and down the back of your legs.
Being aware of the position of your pelvis is one of the keys to developing a strong core muscular structure and a healthy back. You can try out this essential skill for yourself. Standing up place your hands on your hip bones, fingers forward and thumbs to the back. Now tip your pelvis forward so that your fingers move down towards your thighs and your thumbs raise up. Be sure not to let anything else move do not lean forward or look down. You should notice that the amount of inward curvature at your lower back has increased you might feel the muscles increasing in tension in your lumber spine. This is Anterior Pelvic Tilt. Now try rotating back through neutral to the opposite so that your thumbs move down and your fingers move up. This can be quite tricky especially if you have not practised. If you find this maneuver difficult to get the knack off it's a good bet that your lower back muscles are too tight. The counter muscles to your lower back are your lower abdominals. From the pubis up to the belly button.
One of the first things we do at Aspyre Fitness when trying to treat somebody's lower back pain is to get them to learn this skill. See this you tube video for a clearer instruction of exactly what we mean: << Pelvic Tilt Demonstration >>
The legs start from the pelvis as well. There are some big muscles here that also via their attachments have an influence on the position of the pelvis and spine. The 2 main ones to look at are the Hip Flexors which bring your thigh bone forward (think stepping from the back to the front or bringing your need to your chest); and your Glutes which perform the opposite action (think of how the thigh moves backwards of the hip as you walk forward pushing the ground behind you).
The hip flexors start from the pelvis and spine and move down towards the upper thigh bone. Because of this, tension in the hip flexors can directly pull the pelvis and spine forward into anterior pelvic tilt. This in turn increases the curvature in the lumbar spine and can cause the muscles in this area to get tight and sore. Our goal is that whenever the hip flexors are working to move the leg the lower abdominals work in conjunction with them to hold the pelvis still so that moving your leg does not mean you have to move your back.
You can see a YouTube clip of a simple lower abdominal exercise by clicking here:<< Lower Abdominal Beginners Exercise Clip >>
Once you have the knack of how to use your lower abdominals to keep the lower back and pelvis in position while flexing the hips we gradually increase the load against them.
The Glutes start from the pelvis / lower back and move down to the structures on the back and sides of your thigh. If the lower abdominals are not working to stabilise the pelvis and spine you might find your lower back muscles working to help move the thigh backwards rather than using your glutes to extend the hip.
Long story short if your abs don’t work your lower back will probably get sore.
Once the abs know how to keep the spine and pelvis stable during hip movement (acting as a stabiliser) we move on to using them as a prime mover in a movement. This is when the legs, pelvis and spine move in synergy to create a movement.
As a rule of thumb we isolate then integrate:
Figure out which muscles are under or over performing and give them activities to either excite them or relax them. Once we have done that we teach the nervous system how to use the right muscles across multiple joints in the right order so we progress towards movements like squats or picking up an object from the ground or moving it overhead.
Simultaneous to this process we learn how to contract the deep abdominal muscles of the transverse abdominus a video link to exercises for this can be found here: << Transverse Abdominus Exercise Clip >>
This article is written as the beginning of a conversation about your core muscles to give you an idea of the process and a few tips to begin with. As always finding the right variation and intensity at the right time is a very individual process, so pop in and see us at Aspyre Fitness to learn more about next steps to deal with back pain.
Yours in Health and Fitness
Owner of Aspyre Fitness
208 Heretaunga st East.
Spread the love
Get Started Today - Call (06) 876 0539
Contact & Hours
ASPYRE FITNESS, 208 Heretaunga St East, Hastings, 4122, New Zealand
(06) 876 0539
Mon - Fri: 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Sat: 8a.m. to 12p.m. and 3-5p.m.
Sun: 9a.m. to 12p.m.