One moment of overextending yourself can lead to years of physical therapy and doctors visits to help keep your sports-related back pain at bay. Trainers and physical therapists constantly remind us to keep the abs engaged when completing any exercise, but to really strengthen your entire trunk, you must work it beyond the gym.
Since most of us sit at a desk most hours of our waking day, our abs have become very lazy. We evolved to be on the move with an engaged core supporting every step. Keeping your abdominals pulled in and up makes a kind of natural corset instantly lifting you up, creating traction (or space) between the vertebrae of the low spine. By consciously pulling your muscles toward your spine, your trunk has the mobility, strength, and support needed to safely and (hopefully) painlessly accomplish any physical task, whether it's lifting a leg, reaching for the floor, or rising from a chair. Many people think engaging your abs means clamping down tight in the torso, but that might aggravate the pain more. Click here to learn how to safely engage all deep ab muscles.
Here's how to engage all of your ab muscles:
- Sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed back and down. Maintain a neutral spine or a slight S curve — no tucking the pelvis or overarching the low back.
- Pull your belly button in and up toward your spine to engage your transverse muscles, which wrap around the entire trunk of your body to stabilize your back, kind of like a weight belt.
- Keep your ribcage positioned over your pelvis; this positioning helps activate your obliques, which crisscross the abdomen in pairs.
- Lastly, draw in your inner ab muscles by practicing mula bandha or lifting your pelvic floor muscles, which rest underneath your bladder and uterus (as you would when completing a Kegel exercise). This further stabilizes your core.
If you suffer from constant back pain, consciously engage all the muscle groups in your abdominal region throughout the day. It may seem uncomfortable or difficult at first, but with practice, you'll find that your core will become stronger, your posture will be better, and the chronic back pain will begin to fade.