Targeting Your Specific Core Needs to Prevent Low Back Pain

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A couple of things are known when reading the research on low back pain.  First, it is common with 9 out of 10 adults experiencing symptoms over their lifetime.  Second, patients with low back pain are very different and require a specific, individualized treatment vs. a one size fits all approach.  Medical research has identified specific Physical Therapy treatment groups for patients based on their low back pain presentation.  Among individuals who respond best to core and lower body strengthening exercises it is important to find the weak line or area of the body.   The following exercises are commonly utilized in our Boulder Physical Therapy practice to address core and lower body imbalances and weaknesses.  Consult your local Physical Therapist before beginning any exercise program for safety and to ensure you are exercising your areas of weakness appropriately.  

Posterior Chain Weakness

The posterior chain of muscles involves the link between the opposite shoulder and hip including the latissimus dorsi, lumbar extensors, and gluteus maximus muscle groups.  Patients with weakness in this chain of muscles often have pain with forward bending movements such as picking up an object from the floor or prolonged sitting.  The following exercises help address areas of weakness within these muscle groups.  

Hip Bridge with Arm Extension

Lay on back with knees bent and flat.  Grab a band, strap, or cable system with both hands.  Roll your hips back into the mat and lift your hips as you simultaneously pull down on the straps.  Keep your abdominals gently engaged then slowly lower to start. 

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Hip Thrust

Use a swiss ball to support your head neck and upper back.  Slowly (2-3 seconds) lower your pelvis towards the ball then return to start by squeezing your glut muscles.  Add a weight on top of your hips if comfortable.  

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Perform 15 reps, 2 sets, 2-3 days per week

Bird Dog

Start on all fours.  Gently draw your abdominals in as you raise and reach an opposite arm and leg.  Imagine a tennis ball on the small of your back and do not allow the ball to fall off your back as your raise your arm and leg.  Alternate from side to side. 

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Perform 15 reps, 2 sets, 2-3 days per week.

TRX Assisted Single Leg Deadlift

Stand on one leg and use both straps of a TRX.  Slowly hinge forward from your hip keeping your back arched.  You should feel a slight stretch in your gluts and hamstring.  Return to start by squeezing your gluts.

Perform 15 reps, 2 sets, 2-3 times.

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Anterior Chain Weakness

Patient's with this line of weakness often have pain with prolonged standing, overhead work, walking/hiking/running downhill, and bending backward.  The muscles in the anterior chain include our pectorals, abdominals, hip flexors, and quadriceps.  

Ball Crunch with Slow Lowering

Lay on swiss ball using hands to support your head and neck.  Gently engage your abdominals as you crunch toward the ceiling.  Slowly lower back down allowing your spine to extend over the swiss ball.  Emphasis on the lowering.

Complete 15 reps, 2 sets, 2-3 times per week

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Quadruped Eccentrics with Sliders

Start on all fours with furniture sliders under your knees.  You can also perform on a tile or wood floor with a towel under your knees.  Lower your knees backward as you engage your abdominals to control the movements.  Slowly slide your knees back in using your abdominals and return to start.  

15 reps, 2 sets, 2-3 times per week

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TRX Standing Abdominals

Stand holding both handles of a TRX.  Slowly lower yourself forward using your abdominals and arm muscles.  Pause and return to start.  

15 reps, 2 sets, 2-3 times per week

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TRX Pike

Start with legs support on ball or TRX.  Keep your abdominals engaged and you raise up toward the ceiling.  Slowly lower back down to start.  

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