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Back hurt? Check your core

One classic core exercise is “the plank.” Lay flat on the floor, feet together, arms close to your sides, elbows bent and hands underneath your shoulder.

Prop yourself up so your weight is on your elbows and forearms. Your arms will be bent at 90 degrees, with your elbows in line with your shoulders. You want to make sure you keep your back, hips and legs in a straight line. Do not let your hips drop, and keep your abs tight (pull your navel in toward your spine).

Try to hold the plank position for a minute — or as long as you can — and repeat three to five times.

The plank is a great exercise for the low back but you should not perform it if you have low back pain unless you’ve been evaluated by your chiropractor or physical therapist to make sure it’s safe for you. Also, if you are not currently  treating with a chiropractor of physical therapist and have a history of cardiovascular disease (including high blood pressure), upper extremity joint problems such as rotator cuff tendonitis, obesity or other health conditions,  talk to your primary care provider to make sure it’s safe for you to perform.

A great way to initially perform this exercise is to do a “half plank”. Instead of being on your elbows and toes, you are on your elbow and knees. This makes the exercise much easier as you’re not lifting as much of your body weight.

I also don’t routinely recommend this exercise initially. I will teach patients low back exercises that are very “safe” as if they are performed correctly as I want to  minimize the chance of injury. After a few weeks, I can then add the “half” or “full” plank exercise to a patient’s  home program.

If you have acute or chronic low back pain you need to understand that there are many “core” exercises available that are not safe to perform as they will strengthen  your “core” muscles, but have an increased risk of injuring your back. I educate my patients in “safe” back exercises that minimize the chance of injury to your back while you are strengthening it. Contact us if you are interested in this approach.

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