Should you

Should you 'Crunches" your way to a Pain Free Low Back?

Published: April 3, 2020

Author: Shana Hogg

Is your low back health dependent on crunching yourself silly at the gym (or in your quarantined home right now?) ;)

I have a lot of clients that come in with low back pain and are under the impression that they need to strengthen their 'core'. When I ask then to talk about what the 'core' means to them, many times they say, "I need to strengthen my tummy muscles". Another one that is genuinely shared is, "I need to lose belly fat, so it puts less stress on my back."

Are they right?

Gym goers and low back in-painers, have a tendency to focus on the strengthening the abdominal muscles. Both from a sought after appearance of a flat stomach as well as the assumed protection of the spine.
Are they right?
Did you know that research indicates that only 2-3% of maximum activity of the abdominal muscles are necessary for stabilizing the spine during upright tasks (unloaded).

2-3%! Wow!

A majority of low back problems occur because the muscles (plural) that are supposed to be in charge of stabilizing rotation between the pelvis and the spine (L5-S1) are not doing their job. The rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and the transverse abdominis are all part of the referenced muscles (hence the plural :)).

So strengthening these should solve majority of the problems right?

Not necessarily.  

Even though the abdominals are primarily responsible for stabilizing rotational patterns these muscles do not work alone in this journey of 'turning energy into motion/an action.  These powerhouse abdominals have parents, a couple aunts and uncles, they have some in-laws, maybe a nosey cousin.....(is my metaphor making sense?)

Let me break down an example of what I mean. 

Your abdominal muscles have serious, (hopefully) committed relationship with other muscles and additional tissue, both up the chain (towards your head) and down the chain (towards your feet). In fact, they are severely dependent on these surrounding support systems (gives a whole new definition to co-dependency, doesn't it?)

For example, the transverse abdominis attaches to the thoracolumbar fascia (a dense fascial sheath located mostly in the posterior thorax). If this tissue is not moving well, then the activation/engagement level of the transverse abdominis can be compromised. Abdominal crunches, Russian twists, and planks, don't feed that the thoracolumbar tissue the nutrients and information it needs to be healthy and supportive.  Therefore, you can't just 'strengthen' the traditional family unit without addressing the extended family.  Ya dig?

It takes a united family unit for them to work in a sophisticated way.  

My long and drawn out point (yes, I will leave the family metaphor at home now)....

This rabbit hole to getting low back pain relief can get confusing.  So, you need to understand the family dynamics (ok...I threw one more in there). 

So a multifaceted approach is necessary to get pain relief.  And solving the causal factor behind your low back pain, it what helps me sleep at night. 

So if you are ready to get pain free, I encourage you to schedule a FREE qualifying call today. 

Be Well Crew,