How Do Weak Abdominal Muscles Cause Lower Back Pain

Updated March 2016

abdominals and back pain

Weak abdominal muscles are a significant factor for lower back pain.  Typical exercises such as sit ups and crunches are popular but sometimes not recommended.  There is no standard for the number of repetitions or intensity required to perform these exercises to achieve some comfortable degree of relief from pain.  Most of us simply have an aversion to these forms of exercise and even regard them as tedious if not irrelevant.

Effects on the Spine

First, they decrease the muscular support needed to provide a stable ‘form’ for the area of muscles surrounding the lower back.  This ‘corset’ like shape includes the Transverse Abdominus and the Obliques, in addition to the Rectus Abdominus.  Together, this form keeps the lumbar curve and spine stable.

Second, weakness of the abdominals  increases your pelvic tilt.  This anterior tilt creates an imbalance in lumbar disc pressure and increased risk of weak and rupture.  It also increases wear and strain on the facet joints.  Facet joint pain is another significant source of lower back pain in addition to disc pain.

Third,  weak abdominals result in an extension of the stomach wall (as is more evident in person who are overweight).  This extension contributes to a posture where the center of gravity is more anterior than as usual.  This puts added tension in the lower back as it try to maintain balance posteriorly.

Last, increased anterior pelvic tilt, increases hamstring tension which in turn reducing hamstring flexibility.  This is also a factor for lower back pain.

An Exercise for Weak Abdominals to Treat Lower Back Pain

There are many abdominal exercises available that are able to help address the pain.  One such exercise can be performed while standing and with little interference on other daily routines.  It is more convenient as it can be done on the run and does not require using the floor. This exercise helps you to train your hamstrings to relax.  This is done as you hold the contraction while using your hands to tilt your pelvis posteriorly.

The Standing Abdominal Exercise

Click on the Image below for detailed step by step instruction.

standing abdominals

This exercise takes time to master as the muscles targeted are initially not well conditioned to respond easily. The importance of performing the exercise while standing is that it allows you to become more aware of your pelvic tilt, lower back tension to help to self correct it.

Another advantage is that it can be done anytime that you are standing and for as long as you have the time available.  Remember,  it takes time to master, so patience is important.

There are more exercises necessary to achieve long term relief from lower back pain.  By following a multi directional approach, you will have a sound method of protection.