Is abdominal weakness causing your low back pain? | Total Performance Physical Therapy

Is abdominal weakness causing your low back pain?

June 6, 2019

Low back pain is a very common complaint and could be very frustrating to the individuals experiencing back pain. If you are experiencing back pain, a physical therapist can perform an examination and an evaluation to determine possible causes of your pain. Your initial evaluation will include being asked about your pain and what activities tend to make it better or worse. Physical therapists are capable of asking specific history questions to determine the cause of your back pain. Next, your physical therapist may ask you to move your back in different positions to determine if there is a range of motion restriction as well as if the movements reproduce your pain. Next your therapist may test the strength of your abdominal muscles because this is a common cause of many cases of low back pain.

If your low back pain is stemming from abdominal and core weakness, there may be some excess mobility in your spine. Your abdominal and core musculature is responsible for stabilizing the spine beyond the degree in which the ligaments of the spine are responsible for stabilizing. Over time and with aging, ligaments may become loose and lose their tightness or stiffness. When the ligaments of the spine are no longer in the proper position to stabilize the spine, the abdominal and core muscles must be strong enough to properly stabilize the spine. When these muscles are weak, the more superficial muscles will compensate and when this occurs, the timing or recruitment of when specific muscles fire is altered which will ultimately cause back pain because the spine stabilizer muscles such as the lumbar multifidi and transverse abdominus are weak.

Posture is also another very important thing that your therapist will assess at your initial evaluation. If you have abdominal or core weakness, your posture changes in such a way that can also be causing your back pain. When your abdominals and core are weak, people may stand with an increased arch or lordosis in their back. This occurs when your abdominal muscles are weak and are unable to stabilize your spine and pelvis in the proper positioning. When the arch in your back increases, your lumbar or lower spinal segments are held in a more extended position which puts more pressure on the discs and vertebrae itself. This sustained change in positioning may ultimately cause low back pain so your therapist will teach you about proper posture and positioning to normalize spinal alignment. Normalizing spinal alignment will allow for proper abdominal and core strengthening which will help maintain proper posture in the long run.

In addition to posture, proper bending and lifting mechanics are also necessary to ensure a healthy spine. If inapporpriate form is used to bend and lift, the spine is excessively loaded in which sprains or strains of the back muscles may occur, causing pain. In addition, this excess load or force through the spine can also cause the disc between the vertebrae to bulge.  There are different degrees of a bulged disc and in some cases, one may feel pain or numbness and tingling into their legs. This occurs when the disc is protruding or bulging to a greater extent and in turn, comes into contact with spinal nerves. When a disc is touching and pinching a nerve, this may send pain, numbness, or tingling into your leg. It is very important to start physical therapy as soon as possible to reduce the pressure on the nerve and relieve any leg or back pain that is present. It is also still very important to begin physical therapy when you experience back pain to normalize the force and load on the spine and prevent the occurrence of a bulged disc.

In conclusion, your back pain may be coming from underlying abdominal and core weakness. Having an evaluation done by a physical therapist will help determine the cause of your back pain and initiating an abdominal and core strengthening program can make significant improvments in your back pain.

If you are experiencing low back pain, call Total Performance Physical Therapy and make an appointment with a physical therapist today!