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Can strengthening abdominal muscles help with back pain?

By December 6, 2008 - 5:57pm
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Both my husband and I suffer from back pain and he told me recently that he had heard that strengthening abdominal muscles can really help your back. Is this true? And does anyone know what kinds of abdominal exercises would help?


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Ditto on what has already been suggested: check with your doctor, first, to determine what sort of therapy and/or exercise would be appropriate for you.

A little background on where I am coming from:

I've had to contend with lower back issues ever since a college injury (no, I didn't play football, haha!). Plus, I recently learned that I have mild scoliosis - my mother didn't even know because none of my doctors ever said anything about it. It was my new chiropractor who noticed the curvature and asked about it. On top of all this, I had a ruptured disc in my lower lumbar area a couple of years back, and, thankfully, my surgeon wanted to take a non-surgical approach to healing.

So, there are certain "ab" exercises I can do, and those I cannot, or risk re-injury. For me, a balance ball is an important piece of exercise equipment. I'm a marathoner, so core (all those muscles surrounding and including the abdominals) strength is extremely important for my physical performance. Last year, I had to wear a back brace if I was looking at a longer than 8-mile run. But, this year, I've completed several long distance events without the brace, and I attribute this to a better core strength training program.

Core strength is important for our balance, posture and so much more. Certain things you can do without doctor's advice: watch your posture, avoid sitting long periods of time, don't sleep on your stomach.

Please do consult your doctor for an exercise regimen that would fit your particular needs and any limitations.

December 8, 2008 - 5:20pm
EmpowHER Guest

A few years ago I stretched a muscle in my back and went through 6 weeks of physical therapy. I also get back pain when stressed.

I'm not sure if exercise is the best way for you to go, and ask you doctor before engaging in exercise if you have not been active recently, but I found that exercise does relieve back pain.

Even now when my back gets sore, this is my indicator to get active/increase physical activity . Whether I ride the bike, walk/jog, or attend yoga, my back pain always improves after exercise.

As previously stated, if you are not already active or have severe back pain or a back injury, consult your doctor before engaging in exercise.

December 8, 2008 - 2:30pm
EmpowHER Guest

I think Alison's suggestions are outstanding. I also had a bad back due to a basketball issue when I was younger in high school. Since I hurt myself, I didn't workout as much and grew a little gut that really caused pain the middle back area.

I started with aerobics to try and lose some of the middle weight and began yoga. Yoga is amazing. You should certainly try it. After losing the middle weight, I no longer have the back issues. Hope this helps and good luck.

December 7, 2008 - 11:23am

From my research, it seems as though it depends on what type of back pain you and your husband suffer from. Lower back pain seemed to be the most common, where strength AND stretching exercises are helpful, for your entire "core" muscles (including abdominal and back), which may help relieve lower back pain. The back muscles are also effected by muscles in your neck, hip, leg...probably every muscle you have!...and there are pictures of example exercises to try including abdominal, back, leg, ankles, neck (the list goes on).

Suggestions include:
- Aerobic activity (treadmill or stationary bike)
- Add strength training/weight lifting (talk with a personal trainer first!)
- Pilates or yoga to stretch and strengthen all of your muscles (especially the core abdominal and back muscles), as well as add flexibility to prevent further injury

Here are some websites with exercise suggestions and images:

The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

National Institute of Health MEDLINEPlus:

Have you & your husband talked with your doctor? It is imperative that you do not start any fitness program (especially if you are already experiencing pain) before speaking with an expert regarding your specific conditions, as you do not want to cause more harm!

December 7, 2008 - 8:38am
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