Abdominal Exercises for Bad Backs
Maintaining your back health requires that you have sufficient core strength. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, exercise may be the most effective way to speed recovery from low back pain and strengthen back and abdominal muscles. A variety of abdominal exercises performed in a safe and effective manner can have a significant effect on the reduction or elimination of back pain. If you experience continued or increased pain, you should seek the advice of a medical professional.
These exercises should be performed on a firm but comfortable surface such as a mat or a carpeted floor. Begin by performing a basic pelvic tilt. Lie in a face-up position with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Contract your abdominals and flatten your back to the floor. Hold this contraction for 10 seconds and release. To increase the difficulty lift the hips from the contracted position and hold them up so your knees, hips and shoulders are in a line. To further increase the difficulty, raise one foot off the floor without letting your hip drop toward the floor. This series should be done in a progressive manner, increasing to each position as you are comfortably able without pain. Repeat whichever exercise you choose eight to 12 times.
The stability ball creates a natural environment for abdominal strengthening because the core muscles must engage during stabilization of the ball. The ball tilt is done by sitting on the ball with your feet on the floor. Repeat the motion of the pelvic tilt in this seated position by contracting your stomach and flattening your back. The ball will move slightly forward during this exercise. Ball crunches can be done by walking your feet away from the ball while allowing the ball to roll up to the center of your back. Once you are stable, place your hands on either side of your head, and lift your shoulders no more than 45 degrees. Perform a ball tilt and lift by lying on the floor with your lower legs resting on the ball. From this position, do a pelvic tilt and lift, maintaining ball stability throughout the exercise. Complete eight to 12 repetitions of one of more of these exercises.
Functional activities in which you use your entire body can increase your overall abdominal strength. Some activities that put a higher focus on core and abdominal strengthening include yoga and Pilates. The NINDS recommends yoga to increase strength and flexibility if you have low back pain. If you choose to do these activities in a group setting, discuss your back pain with the instructor before class so she can help you modify poses accordingly.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Low Back Pain Fact Sheet
- Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine: Low Back Exercise Program
- Sekendiz B, Cuğ M, Korkusuz F. Effects of Swiss-ball core strength training on strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance in sedentary women. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(11):3032-40. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181d82e70
- Yu W, Cha S, Seo S. The effect of ball exercise on the balance ability of young adults. J Phys Ther Sci. 2017;29(12):2087-2089. doi:10.1589/jpts.29.2087
Kristi Stephens has been writing professionally since 2010. She holds certifications in athletic training, massage therapy, personal training and has a physical-education degree with concentrations in coaching and family life/human sexuality. Stephens is on the kinesiology faculty at a local community college and is employed as an athletic trainer/patient relations coordinator for a sports medicine physical therapy clinic.