Core Engagement for Lower Back Pain

May 17, 2021

Lower back pain is an issue that many of us have, or will experience in our lifetimes in one way or another.

Combatting acute lower back pain is therefore essential in order to prevent escalation into more serious, chronic problems. These early stage, simple yet effective exercises aid to activate and strengthen the core, and reduce acute lower back pain.

The core is made up of a combination of abdominal and back muscles, as well as the ribcage, diaphragm, pelvic floor and more. These structures stabilise the spine as well as transfer force throughout the body to the peripherals, hence a strong core leads to a strong overall body. After all, you can’t have big branches on a small tree trunk.

A weakness within the core can allow more load to pass through our passive structures such as the bones, ligaments and discs within our spine, leading to acute lower back injury. Strong core activation releases muscular tension as well as allows for proper distribution of load throughout the body, reducing the pain we may be experiencing as a result of muscular tightness, or increased load through the spine.


 Crook Lying Heel Slides– 2 Sets, 8 reps each leg.

 The aim of this exercise is to learn core engagement by feeling your limits yourself. The key with this exercise is to place the hands underneath the back as shown in the video. Engage the core and push the hands into the floor using the lower back. Keeping the core engaged, slide one leg at a time out as far as possible, keeping the tension through the back, if you begin to lose the tension, reduce the distance the heel is sliding.

Progression: To progress this exercise, slide both feet out at the same time.

Dead Bugs – 2 sets, 10 reps.

This exercise can be adapted for any ability. Engage the core and begin by lowering one arm down to the ground at a time, if these are too easy try one leg at a time. The aim of this exercise is to be able to use the opposite arm and leg at the same time.

Progression: Progress this exercise by using both arms and legs at the same time.

Bird/Dogs – 2 sets, 10 reps.

Start this exercise by lifting off the opposite arm and legs whilst engaging the core. Once this action has been perfected, move into fully extending both the hip and shoulder keeping the core tight and strong.

Cat/Camel – 2 sets, 12 reps.

On all fours in a stable position, push your back down towards the ground, as far as comfortable then return to neutral. Now pull the back up to the ceiling, tucking in the core and ribs.

Glute Bridge – 2 sets, 10 reps.

Lay on the back in the same position as the crook lying, engage the core and push up using the hips and glutes, squeezing through the glutes, hold the position at the top for 8 seconds, before returning back down to neutral.

Progression: There are multiple ways to progress this exercise.

Single-leg glute bridge: Raise one leg to where is comfortable, then as normal, engage the core and glute, raise up and hold for 8 seconds.

Glute bridge heel slides: Complete a normal glute bridge, when at the top, slide one heel out as far as possible whilst staying in the elevated position, then return back to the normal bridge. After completing one heel slide, you can either; return back to neutral, or if feeling strong, slide out the other heel whilst remaining up, with both the core and glutes engaged.

We hope that this blog has helped you and if this is a problem that you need more assistance with, please follow the link here to book yourself in with one of our experienced therapists.

You can also view our previous blog relating to Tennis elbow here.

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