A common topic of conversation in the office centers on “Are you doing your CORE exercises?” And the various excuses patients use to explain why they are not doing these exercises. I finally had a patient tire of my questioning and she finally asked “What the heck is CORE and why do I have to do them?”
What is the core?
The CORE muscles comprise the back and front muscles that surround and protect the lumbar spine. The muscles in the front include RECTUS ABDOMINUS, INTERNAL & EXTERNAL OBLIQUES and in the back the THORACOLUMBAR FASCIA and the deep back muscles or ERECTOR SPINAE MUSCLES.
The muscle groups act to protect the weight bearing parts of the low back such as the discs (shock absorbers), joints (similar to joints like a knee) and the bones (vertebra). The stronger and better endurance these muscles have, the less wear and tear your back will see…….like a car with brand new shocks; same bumps in life but you feel them less.
What does the core have to do with back pain?
In my opinion, the single best thing anybody can do to protect against back pain is to do a CORE program 3-4 times a week!!!!! Exercises such as Planks, Crunches, Sit Ups and Push Ups all work the CORE muscles and will make your back feel better. Pilates is a good example of a workout program that concentrates on the CORE muscles.
Interestingly, I often hear patients tell me they don’t need to do the exercises because they already work out. “I walk everyday” or “I do yardwork” are common descriptions of workout routines. These men and women seem surprised when I tell them “That doesn’t count!”
If you are having back problems, some of these exercises (depending on where your pain is coming from) may irritate your low back. That is why I always recommend Physical Therapy (PT) to my clinic patients. Simply giving a handout of CORE exercises does not personalize a home exercise program (HEP) for all patients. Individual PT for the patient with low back pain (LBP) is the best way to learn a HEP that is going to last!!!
Ultimately, experiencing LBP and getting older is a normal part of life. Staying consistent with a HEP is the single best way to enjoy a healthy back and decrease your chances of visiting a Spine Surgeon.
-Dr. Paul Saiz