Try These Three Simple Exercises For Improving and Preventing Back Pain

Is that nagging low back pain after certain activities frustrating you? Does your back go out from picking up your keys after dropping them on the floor? Does your back bother you after sitting at the computer? Do you catch yourself with poor posture throughout the day?

These can be signs of core instability or core weakness. For many people, certain occupations and lifestyles can set the stage for core weakness or instability leading to all of the aforementioned issues. When these issues get to the point that they are not allowing you to enjoy your daily activities or they make you look like a slouch, look to address a major part of the underlying cause, core weakness or core instability. There are some simple and basic exercises that you can add into your daily routine in less than five minutes a day to address this problem. Within several weeks you should see quite an improvement in performance and ease of exercises, and you may want to add more challenges (which I’ll also share with you).

Core Stability

When discussing core strength and stability, most people think of their abs. While these are an important part of your core, there are many other muscles involved which can be too weak, too strong, or imbalanced. In today’s society, there are common patterns of core stability problems that can be addressed with focusing on some common areas of weakness or instability. Most people actually have very strong back muscles, but it’s the various abdominal and gluteal (butt) muscles that are usually weak or inactive due to lack of use.

Benefits of Core Stabilization

There are many benefits to setting a little time aside each day for addressing your core strength and stability. Injury prevention during your daily activities, including hobbies and work is a significant benefit of improving your core strength. Many people notice they have improved posture both with sitting or standing after doing regular core strengthening exercises. Not only can you see decreased pain in your lower back, but significant stress is taken off of your shoulders, hips and neck with increased core stability. Improved performance in sports and recreational activities can be achieved with improving your core strength and stability.

3 Simple Exercises to Improve Your Core Stability

This series of core exercises is referred to as McGill’s Big Three, created by Dr. Stuart McGill, one of the world’s foremost experts on spine biomechanics.

Pointer Dog—The pointer dog is an excellent exercise to help create stability during spinal rotation and helps to reduce lower back pain due to excess rotational force on the lumbar spine. To do this exercise, start out on your hands and knees with your shoulders directly above your wrists/hands and your hips directly above your knees.

Pointer Dog Starting Position

Keeping your spine straight, extend your thigh and leg on one side and then return to neutral and repeat on the other side. To increase difficulty, extend the opposite shoulder and arm at the same time.

Pointer Dog One Leg

To increase difficulty, resume a standard plank position and extend the opposite arm and leg upward.

Pointer Dog Opposite Arm and Leg

Side Plank—This exercise focuses on your abdominal oblique muscles, which control lateral stability of the spine. These muscles are often the weakest and most neglected muscles in your core system. Strengthening the lateral stability muscles is akin to putting on a low back support belt. In my opinion, strengthening this muscle group is worth its weight in gold.

If you are a beginner in planks, you may want to start your plank up against a wall and gradually move your feet further away.

Standing Side Plank

Then plank against a table or counter top.

Side Plank on Bench

Adding more challenge to this exercise, you can side plank on the floor.

Side Plank on Floor

Start with 15-30 seconds and work yourself up to 1-2 minutes. Be sure to do each side. If you need more challenge, have your non-weight bearing elbow and knee arch up and touch each other.

Side Plank Challenge

Curl Up—This is not a sit up or a crunch. It’s similar, but a much safer and less stressful exercise for your lower back. This exercise targets your anterior abdominal muscles which contribute to overall core stability as well as reducing spinal instability.

Laying on your back, with one knee bent, put your hands under the natural arch in your lower back.

Curl Up Start

Next you are going to lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground by contracting your abdomen (abdominal hallowing) and holding for 3-5 seconds without flexing your lower back. You can increase difficulty by increasing hold time.

Curl Up Hold

These three simple exercises can be added into your daily routine in less than five minutes a day. As you build more strength and stability, look to add a few new exercises into your routine to help with preventing injuries, decreasing pain, and improving your posture and performance.