If you, like millions of others, suffer from back and neck pain, you have likely sought relief in a number of places. From chiropractors to pain medications and beyond, there is no end to the possible solutions offered to pain sufferers.
While often overlooked, tightness and weakness in other muscle groups can actually cause new pain and worsen existing pain. By addressing the shortcomings of these related muscle groups, many people find the pain relief they seek.
One such muscle group is your core. While chasing six-pack abs might not be a priority for you, strengthening your abdominals is for more than just aesthetics. Building a strong core can reduce your back and neck pain not only temporarily but also long-term.
How Does Strengthening Your Core Alleviate Back and Neck Pain?
The core, which is directly opposite to the spine and back surrounding back muscles, can cause pain if it is underdeveloped, tight, or otherwise not performing up to par. Strengthening the core can correct these imbalances, fix your posture, relieve pain, and even make your back and neck more resistant to future pain.
Typically, back and neck pain that is related to core strength is a result of weak abdominal muscles. Because the core is not doing its job of helping support your spine, the other muscular structures must work harder. This means your back muscles are overworked, which makes them prone to injury and strain, especially over time and when making certain movements.
Simply put, the core is at the center of the body and plays an integral role in support not just your back and neck but your body as a whole. If it is a weak link, the consequences reverberate throughout your entire being, often manifesting as pain. Strengthening the core can prevent these negative consequences from occurring and worsening.
Core Strengthening Exercises
Because the core supports the body and aids in movement, it is important to approach core strengthening with a well-rounded regimen of exercise. A great place to start your new core strengthening routine is with your doctor. They will evaluate your physical fitness and help you determine the right exercise routine for your specific situation.
That being said, there are a handful of fantastic core exercises from which the vast majority of back and neck pain sufferers can benefit.
Plank and Variations
One of the best core exercises that can be modified to nearly any fitness level is the plank and its variations. Performed by getting on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and stepping your feet out until your legs are fully straight, this exercise works wonders for your abdominals and several other muscle groups.
Be sure to pull your abdomen in (belly button toward the spine) and hold both your core and legs tight. Do not allow your lower back or neck to sag—you want to be as straight as a plank for the entirety of the exercise.
Starting on all fours with your hands properly aligned below your shoulders and your knees stacked under your hips, engage your abdominals and keep your spine neutral (don’t arch or sag). While maintaining this position, lift one arm straight forward while extending the opposite leg back. Return to the starting position, then repeat with the opposite limbs.
A strong core is key to good posture, safe movement, and a healthy body. If you suffer from back and neck pain, talk to your doctor about implementing core exercises into your fitness regimen. They will provide you with the right movements for your health. As your core strengthens, your back and neck pain will likely fade away, and you will be setting yourself up for a healthier future!