Better Backs Start In the Front

By on September 1, 2011

By Lisa Morrone, PT –

Are backaches a part of your world? Whether your back pain ‘comes and goes’ or is something you deal with on a daily basis, it is not an ailment you need to resign yourself to live with just because you are “getting older”. You can take steps to eradicate it once and for all!

For decades people have sought to cure low back pain by strengthening their long, strappy extensor muscles which run parallel to the spine. So why did athletes with bulging back muscles continue to show up in the clinic with pain across their backs? Something about this theory was just not right.

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Recent advances in diagnostic equipment have enabled us to discover that much of the back’s stability relies on the strength of muscles located on the opposite side of the trunk—in the abdominal muscles. There are actually four groups of abdominal muscles. Because of their “visibility”, the first three seem to get all the attention! These “mirror muscles” are the rectus abdominus (running vertically from ribs to the public bone) and the external and internal obliques (running diagonally from the side of the rib cage to the pelvis).

The forth abdominal “player”, which is the most important protector against back injury, is the transverse abdominus. This muscle is wired differently from the rest of the abdominals in that it was created to be in the “ON” mode most all the time. When it contracts it draws the abdominal contents back against the spine, it tethers the stabilizing covering (fascia) across the low back, and it signals the tiny, deep muscles of the spine and pelvic floor to join it in “girdling” the pelvic region.

Back pain changes the setting of this muscle to “OFF” or “SLOW TO TURN ON”—robbing it of its effectiveness. In order to return to its protective post, it must be specifically retrained. Here’s how:

  1. Place your finger tips into the lower part of your stomach—one inch below your belly button and 4 inches out to the sides. Spring into your stomach muscles. They should feel soft.
  2. Breathe in, then half way out and pause.
  3. Draw your belly button in toward your spine without moving your back or rib cage. Again spring your fingertips into your abdomen. This time you should feel some firmness has developed.
  4. Hold this contraction, while exhaling the remainder of the way.
  5. Continue breathing in and out, while maintaining this semi-firm contraction for 10 breath cycles.

Once you are able to contract your transverse abdominus on cue, use it whenever you stand, walk, push, or pull anything, and remember to make sure it’s “ON” before performing any other exercises.

For more advice on ridding yourself of back and neck symptoms, pick up a copy of my book, Overcoming Back and Neck Pain, and start on the road to complete recovery today!

Lisa Morrone, PT is a regular Health contributor for Living Better at 50+. A physical therapist, author, professor, and speaker, Lisa is on a mission to help people Get Healthy…for Heaven’s Sake! Visit her on the web at: Be sure to sign up to receive Lisa’s Monday Morning Health Tips, delivered right to your inbox!

About Lisa Morrone

Lisa Morrone, P.T., is a physical therapist, professor, speaker, and the author of five books who is on a mission to encourage people to Get Healthy, For Heaven’s Sake. Comprised from over two decades of experience in the healthcare field, Lisa’s can-do instruction will empower you to: • Invest in good health now to enjoy every stage of life. • Gain control over recurring pain by treating it yourself. • Maintain the proper focus and fitness to maximize your calling. • Secure changes which will increase your lifespan by 7-15 years!

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Better Backs Start In the Front