Your entire midsection -- both the back and the stomach muscles -- plays a role in your spine health. Weak abdominal muscles increase your risk for disc herniation and back pain, whereas back pain inhibits your desire to work for a flat stomach. You can strengthen your core muscles with a bad back, but doing so takes time, effort and a multifaceted approach.
Get clearance from your doctor. Do not start an exercise program without your doctor's approval. Doing so could complicate an existing back injury and cause pain.
Start a healthy diet if you are not already eating one. Exercise and conditioning are only two of the three facets of toning and weight loss -- your diet is an important determinant for success.
Exercise daily to lose the belly bulge and to tone muscle. Avoid any exercises that induce back pain. Try low or no-impact exercises such as taking a brisk 30-minute walk or swimming for a half hour.
Stretch the core muscles daily to gain flexibility and stability. Avoid twisting or side bending stretches, as these can place undue pressure on your vertebrae and discs.
Employ a personal trainer, physical therapist or exercise physiologist to teach you how to use an exercise ball correctly. This workout tool can allow you to safely complete core exercises, such as crunches, with minimal impact to your spine.
Stop any stretch or exercise that induces back pain and try something different. Pay attention to your posture throughout the day. Sit or stand up as straight as possible while squeezing or engaging the core abdominal muscles for a five-second ab exercise anywhere, anytime.
Do not try to use an exercise ball by yourself if you have a history of back pain. Let the professionals teach you how to tighten your abdominal muscles without placing pressure on your spine.