Mechanical low back pain is back pain coming from the bones and muscles of the spine. It is very common and increases in frequency with age. Many people start experiencing back pain in their 30’s and 40’s.
Fortunately, exercise helps most people with back pain feel better. More specifically, functional exercise that includes core strengthening and stretching are essential to restore spine health. Core strengthening and flexibility exercises are foundational components of workouts such as yoga, pilates, and barre.
Core strengthening helps low back pain. The core consists of the muscles in the abdomen and back. The core muscles support and protect the spine. If the these muscles are working correctly, fewer injury-inducing forces are transmitted to the back. This means fewer back injuries and less back pain. Key exercises that strengthen the core include plank work and kettlebells.
A key core muscle is the transverse abdominis or TVA. Studies show the TVA works reflexively to protect the spine with movement. Core strengthening exercise improve the reflexive function of the TVA. To activate the TVA muscle, pull the belly button in towards the spine. Practice doing this while laying down, then while walking. Next, incorporate core activation into daily activities and exercise.
Stretching is critical in recovering from low back pain because it restores range of motion to the muscles. Extended sitting shortens muscle groups, such as the hip muscles. When shortened, these muscles pull the back out of neutral position. This suboptimal position predisposes to back pain. Stretching restores the range of motion to the shortened muscles. Key muscles to stretch for low back care include the back of the legs (hamstrings and calves), front of the hips (hip flexors), sides of the hip (hip abductors), and low back muscles.
Central to back care and recovery following an episode of low back pain is core strengthening and restoring range of motion to shortened muscles. Whether it’s kettlebells, pilates, yoga, or barre, these classes provide great training for spine health.