Back pain is often thought to have an inverse relationship with core strength and stability. To enhance stability, many exercisers will perform spine stabilization exercises in the hope of improving strength and reducing or eliminating low-back pain. A recent study finds fault with this approach.
Published in the European Spine Journal (2012; 21 , 1301–10), the study included 32 patients with nonspecific chronic low-back pain. Throughout the 9-week intervention, the subjects self-reported pain intensity and disability; completed psychological questionnaires; and performed stabilization exercises aimed at improving abdominal function and strength.
“Neither baseline lateral abdominal muscle function nor its improvement after a program of stabilization exercises was a statistical predictor of a good clinical outcome,” stated the researchers. “It is hence difficult to attribute the therapeutic result to any specific effects of the exercises on these trunk muscles.”
Ryan Crandall, IDEA member and owner of Fitness & Yoga Integration in Albuquerque, New Mexico, agrees with the findings to a point. “Chronic pain isn’t something that necessarily comes from weak muscles, pelvic asymmetry or leg length issues,” he says. “It is becoming more known that pain is much more complex than we thought and the perception of pain comes from the brain, not the tissue.”
How does Crandall approach individuals with low-back pain?
- “Before anything else, teach diaphragmatic breathing. Make it conscious at first and progress over time to subconscious movement,” he says.
- “Next, start movement slow, [and keep it] pain-free (as much as possible). Think of the body in 3D [and also think about] how the body is linked together.” The goal is then to expand the movement and teach a better understanding of deceleration, he adds.
- “Finally, we aren’t designed to sit all day in one position, no matter how ‘ergonomic’ a chair is,” says Crandall. “Preach and teach more movement throughout the day.”
To learn more about diaphragmatic breathing, check out the article “Diaphragmatic Breathing’s Influence on Core Stability and Neck Pain” in the March 2012 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.