Does having a weak core cause back pain?

February 26th, 2024 by Jeannie Di Bon

Exercise | Pain

Have you been given core exercises for back pain? There is no evidence to support the idea that bracing the core helps relieve chronic back pain.

There is a theory that is still going around claiming a weak core causes back pain and we must address “core stability” to alleviate it. If you have back pain, I’m sure you have been told that you have a weak core and that you need to strengthen your core. You’ve probably been told some variation of “engage your core by drawing in your tummy muscles navel to spine, pulling up your pelvic floor, and squeezing your transverse abdominus.” Sound familiar? The scary thing is there is actually no evidence to support this approach. 

A weak core is not causing your back pain 

There is no scientific proof that a weak core causes back pain or that strengthening your core will help alleviate back pain. So we have to ask, why are we still doing this when there are no actual proven results or evidence to support that claim?

Dr. Eyal Lederman goes into depth into this myth – The Myth of Core Stability. He explains that research has found that abdominal hollowing is the most ineffective form of abdominal muscle strength training and does not increase stability. Further, while bracing does improve stability it does it at the cost of spinal compression! This is not what we are looking for when we are dealing with back pain.

In my method, we don’t do any navel to spine, hollowing, sucking, or bracing the abdominals. What we’re looking for is fluidity and ease of movement in the pelvis and the lumbar spine. Using methods to bring bracing and tension to the area and then attempting to move is a bad idea. In fact, it makes it very hard to breathe and it makes it very hard to move functionally.

What we can do instead of bracing the core? 

What if we allowed that area to move and we allowed those muscles to engage but in a very natural way, not in a way that is forced and contrived?

I’ve never taught core stability work, what I teach is the natural engagement of the muscle. I’m not saying abdominal muscles shouldn’t be working. Of course, they should. They should be responding to the amount of work and load that you are putting through your tissue.

Say you go to the gym or an exercise class and are told to squeeze and brace your core. What do you do as you go about your daily life? How functional is that when you’re only doing it in an exercise class, we want techniques and methods that are transferable into everyday life so that we can use them naturally without having to think.

For example: when a dog runs for a stick at the park, I have never seen it stop, suck in its abdominals, brace itself then attempt to move. He just moves and his body knows what to do and when. 

I have the same goal when working with my clients and with Moovlite: Reframe (link). We learn functional movement patterns so that our bodies know what to do and when, allowing us to move fluidly and freely without pain. 

No Comments

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.