For for as long as i can remember i have been told i need to do more basic work to fix my lower back. My lumbar spine has always been a bit balanced. As a teenage ballet dancer, one of the most common corrections she received from teachers was: “Put your poop in!” (Which would be your butt, by the way).
Now that my favorite hobby is running, I often see in run photos (especially during the last few miles) that I look like I’m leaving my butt a half foot behind the rest of my body; It is not the most efficient way, nor the most comfortable. My husband knows that if there’s one place I’m going to ask for a massage, it’s my lower back. All that arching leaves him constantly sore.
Physiotherapists, trainers, and trainers have prescribed the same solution over and over again: working my lower abs to strengthen that section of my body so I can keep my spine in a better position. But no matter how many core strengthening exercises for low back pain I add to my routine, I have never been able to solve the problem.
When I told movement coach and postural alignment specialist Emily DePauw all of this, she wasn’t the least bit surprised.
“People think, okay, well, if I strengthen my abs, then I can provide a support structure that will reduce instability in my spine.It makes a lot of sense because opposite your spine are your abs,” she says. “It’s not totally uninformed thinking; It’s just an incomplete thought.”
That’s because, he says, core work itself won’t fix imbalances or asymmetries in your torso. For example, when he evaluated my posture, he noticed that one of my hips is more tilted than the other, and that the leg naturally rotates more outward, twisting my spine out of balance and causing me to arch my lower back to compensate. “When you work out the rotation in the body, then you can recruit your obliques and transverse abdominals (deep core stabilizers) much more symmetrically from right to left. And then you’re really strengthening (to support) your spine better, but you want to work out these imbalances first “, she says.
She adds that even if lower abdominal weakness is the reason for your back pain, it’s worth doing a little Sherlock Holmes work to find out. because they’re weak “It’s not that these muscles one day decided to opt out and be weak for some arbitrary reason,” says DePauw. “youtheirs is because they are not in a position of influence that they should be in to be used. Wthe weakness in the core is due to a misalignment, and you need to address the misalignment first.”
“The weakness in the core is due to a misalignment, and you need to address the misalignment first.” —Emily DePauw
If you think a misalignment may be behind your own back pain, you’re probably right. “Almost everyone is dealing with some type of imbalance as a result of our lifestyle and habits,” says DePauw. That could be anything from constantly sitting cross-legged, to a habit of leaning more towards one hip than the other when standing, or even a hobby like surfing or snowboarding that forces you to favor one side.
You can quickly tell if you may have an imbalance if, for example, you always injure yourself on the same side of your body, if the soles of your shoes wear unevenly between your left and right foot, or if you notice increased strength or flexibility in one side of your body. Or you can do a simple test: stand up, close your eyes, and see if you feel like you have more weight on one foot than the other. A postural alignment specialist like DePauw or even a physical therapist could also help point out asymmetries and give you some ways to fix them.
It’s not that we have to be perfectly symmetrical. Ask any professional tennis or golf player: they’ll probably never have equal strength on both sides, and that’s okay. “You just need to be functional,” says DePauw. That means balancing out any misalignment before working on things like core strength.
For my tilted pelvis and uneven leg rotation, DePauw gave me three short exercises that I could do lying on the floor to retrain my hip alignment. After just a few days of regular practice, I noticed that my lower back was flatter against the ground.
“You’ll get a lot more out of your main job because you actually have access to your abs in a better way,” he told me. “I’m definitely not vilifying ab work because it’s so helpful, so important. You just want to position yourself for success first. Do this first and then you’ll get a lot more juice out of it.”