I recently received this question which I thought reflected a general consensus among most people whether postpartum, amateur athlete, or the average joe who spends most of his time in an office chair…

Since being pregnant, breast feeding, and now carrying my baby around all the time I have a lot of lower back pain.  I know it’s important to strengthen my core in order to strengthen my back, but am not sure the best ways to go about actually doing this without needing a heating pad every night.

I can relate to back pain!!!  When I was 19 years old I ran 6 miles about 3 times a week, worked out almost every day, and played in competitive volleyball tournaments on weekends.  One day during a tournament I jumped up to hit the ball, landed, and felt this horrendous pain shooting through my lower back.  I could not stand up straight or lie down without excruciating pain.  I had to go to the emergency room!  I was given muscle relaxers and pain killers but no explanation as to what this pain was!  Later I learned that I had extremely weak core muscles causing extreme stress on my lower back which eventually lead to severe muscles spasms and soft tissue damage.  I’m telling you…back pain is NO JOKE!!!!  Whether an athlete, new mother, or moderately active person… you should aim to have a strong core and learn to engage it properly, protect your back, and keep you on your feet!

An article from Web MD states: About 25% of Americans are affected by back pain in a given year, and they spend more time at the doctor’s office for back pain than for any other medical condition except high blood pressure and diabetes.

Instead of jumping for pills or surgery, says Kelly, people with chronic back pain should first seek out a thorough functional assessment from a qualified trainer with experience in sports medicine.

Some main causes of back pain are:

  • Poor posture and alignment
  • Weak core muscles
  • Improper use of core muscles
  • Structural damage like a herniated or ruptured disk

If there is no structural damage, the keys to alleviating lower back pain are:

  • Posture (during all exercise and during regular life)
  • Core Strength Exercises
  • Training the Nervous system to fire muscles correctly

Why does core strength matter: Your core is made up of muscles ligaments and tendons.  The structure of the back & core is made up of bone, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.  There are a multitude of factors that can impact these elements to cause lower back pain.

4 exercises to strengthen your core:

Side Plank: The side plank requires alignment and core activation to be done correctly. Lineup ear, shoulder, hip, knee & ankle, draw navel in, and hold the position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. DSC_6010
Side Angle Pose: Side angle pose is a yoga pose requiring balance, leg strength, and core activation. I am not a yoga teacher or expert, just a participant so I have included a link  with instructions to help you do this pose. DSC_6005
Plank Using Exercise Ball: Plank using an exercise ball requires shoulder strength and core activation. Line up ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle, draw navel in, and hold for 30 -60 seconds. DSC_6032
Chest Press Using Exercise Ball: Chest press using an exercise ball requires core stability, upper body strength, and balance.  It’s a great exercise to help you learn to activate the core during strength training. DSC_6053

You should not feel lower back pain during any of these exercises.  If you do, they are too advanced or you are holding them too long.  If you have chronic back pain, I recommend scheduling a session or two with a qualified exercise specialist just to focus on core strengthening exercises, flexibility, and posture.  With the right professional, it can dramatically improve your core strength and reduce lower back pain.  Let me know if you would like more information about this by sending an email to: Jes@jesreynolds.com!