This if often MISSED with LOW BACK PAIN

Our core muscles help with our posture and allows for movement of our limbs so we can be mobile, exercise and perform sporting activities. They help to coordinate movements and help with overall balance. However, this is one thing that is often missed when dealing with low back pain, and that is core strength. 

A strong and stable core is vital in maintaining excellent neutral posture and in preventing injuries to the spine and extremities.

Purpose of core muscles

These muscles need to be seen not only as movers, so we can flex, extend, side bend and rotate, but as stabilisers and a centre where force is transferred. Core muscles act as static or dynamic stabilisers for movement and shift force from one limb to another and also help to start movement.

What are our core muscles?

Your core aren’t just your abdominal muscles. What we refer to as our “six pack” is a superficial abdominal core muscle. There are many more stabilising core muscles as well as other muscles that help with trunk movement. Unfortunately, these muscles are often missed when it comes to dealing with low back pain.


  • Transverse abdominis
  • Internal obliques
  • Diaphragm
  • Transverspinalis
  • Multifidii
  • Pelvic floor muscles


  • Rectus abdominis
  • External obliques
  • Erector spinae
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteus maximus

How to check if your core muscles can stabilise your spine? 

Push Up You can test yourself how well your core is being stabilised by your core muscles with a push up.

Start on the ground with hands at shoulder level for women and at chin level for men. Push yourself up from the ground and see if you can keep your back and legs level. Placing a broom handle on your back will help you to assess how straight your body remains as you come up. If you cannot perform a push up, then you can start to work on your core by doing some push up against the wall. 

How to check if your core muscles are strong?


Plank – can you hold a plank position for 90 seconds? To get into a good plank position place elbows on ground under shoulders. Forearms are pointing forward. Pull belly button to lower back and contract gluteal muscles. Toes are on the ground. Back should be straight.

Side Plank – can you hold the side plank for 30 seconds? Elbow is positioned under shoulder and feet are stacked on top of each other. Spine is straight .


When we are doing exercise with a trainer or in a class you will often hear them asking you to brace your core or pull abdominal muscles to lower back. This will help to initiate movement and generate more strength with the exercise. They will also remind you because this will help to protect your spine and shoulders/hips and other joints.

Imagine you are walking up a steep slope. You need to use your legs to push up against the slope. Imagine doing that without engaging your core. It’s practically impossible. Your legs use the balance and stability from your core to work.

Superman – On hands and knees, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Look forward at 45degree angle. Brace core and lift leg and opposite arm so they are in alignment with the spine. Move slowly and deliberately. Alternate and aim to do 10 all up.

Knee to chest – Hand from a bar so your feet are off the ground. Gentle brace and bend one knee to chest. Aim to do 10 all up.

What happens when your core muscles are not balanced?

When some muscles are weak, then other will naturally take over and be strong. This imbalance will cause a change in posture and a change in spinal stability and strength. Overworked muscles will fatigue, strained joints will be inflamed and pain is the result. This is often seen in our office when someone comes in with lower back, hip and knee pain. The goal then is to deal with the imbalances by stretching tight muscles, strengthening weak ones and mobilising stiff joints. The core is the key to getting overall strength, flexibility and balance in our body.

When you are exercising, whether you are doing static work, such as planks or dynamic work, such as weights or lunges, then be mindful to engage your core. If you feel that your core is weak then do some pushups on your knees, plank for 10 seconds and slowly build up and try the Superman exercise above. Build up on these exercises before you start adding more dynamic work or weight training.

If your back is still stiff and sore and is stopping you from doing exercise, then we suggest you see your therapist.

Sciatica relief with these exercises, CLICK HERE.

Can you do these following movements? CLICK HERE to find out more.

Dr. Lisa Smycz, chiropractor

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