Low Back Pain: Is a Weak Core the Real Culprit?
We all know someone with low back pain. Low back pain is very common and it has been reported that up to 4 out of every 5 people in the UK will suffer from low back pain in their lifetime. It is one of the most reported reasons that people consult their GP and one of the most common things I see in my work.
Your lumbar spine is made up of 5 vertebra that look like building blocks that sit on top of each other. They are separated by discs that have similar properties to a jam donut, in that they have a jelly like centre and hard ring around the outside. These discs generally thin as a normal part of ageing and with the downward force of gravity during the day. Muscles attract to the sides of the vertebra to stabilise and move them. Interestingly, out of your abdominal muscles only your transverse abdominus attaches in an area that can stabilise your lumbar spine.
So is it all about the core?
Probably not. Every day I see people who tell me their core is weak and that is why thy have back pain. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other factors that can contribute to low back pain such as hamstring tightness, posture and ergonomic set up at work and ignoring those and getting too focused on core strengthening does not always completely resolve the problem. If you can do a chin up or a squat or well controlled single leg lunge your core is already probably fairly strong. If you have a little bit of swelling or pain around your low back your brain often inhibits some of your core muscles – it doesn’t matter how strong your core muscles are if they aren’t being switched on! Treatment aiming to relieve the pain and swelling and restore normal movement is more beneficial to result in a faster return to your normal activity then focusing on core strength.
But aren’t I supposed to avoid moving?
Often the worst thing you can do when you have low back pain is lie in bed! It is important you keep doing all movements that are pain free and move around as normally as possible with in pain limits.
Other helpful tips for low back pain are:
• Use heat to help relieve some of the muscle tightness
• Lie on your back and gently rock your legs from side to side
• Continue doing some gentle gluteal stretches as these muscles tend to get very tight in an effort to support your back
• Get up and move around every 15-20 minutes at work to avoid getting to stiff
• Avoid sitting in soft chairs or being in a slightly bent forward positions (like when you are shaving, brushing your teeth or washing up dishes) as thee put a lot of pressure on the disc in your low back.
Most low back pain can be easily resolved with physiotherapy treatment and it is important the factors causing the pain are identified so it doesn’t come back!
Simon is one of KX’s in-house physiotherapists. With a detailed understanding of how the body works and the ability to distinguish between normal and abnormal posture, balance and movement, Simon can help restore function and prevent disability arising from trauma and injury.
• Qualified Physiotherapist
• Preventative, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Specialisms.
Simon is available at the KX Spa at the following times: