Lower back pain and dysfunction is one of the most common problems of today’s society, with many different activities causing a breakdown in our bodies. Things like excessive sitting (at desks, in cars, at home on the couch), poor movement patterns for years, less movement as kids, and the typical accidents and injuries throughout life.
Looking at people as a whole during my years of practice, I have noticed a lot of people have dysfunctional core coordination. Often, I have found that people use their gluteal/buttock muscles to provide pelvic support, rather than the correct use of abdominal muscles, pelvic floor engagement, and lower back muscles. I have also seen that most people are unaware of this happening, and that it has been happening, in many cases, in spite of core training. These dysfunctional patterns can be easy to miss, and yet are essential in helping your back to be as strong as possible.
Lower back stability is multi-faceted. You require:
- Appropriate neurological feedback from your body to your brain so your brain knows where everything is for appropriate movement planning and control.
- The flexibility to be able to move with a good range of movement and allow good blood flow to the tissues,
- The muscular strength to support your spine and pelvis.
All of these things are needed for injury prevention, and are looked to for injury recovery. Therefore, to look for a solution, it would make sense to look at the 3 requirements, and what influences them.
1. Optimal and appropriate neurological feedback:
Research has shown that chiropractic adjustments improve your proprioception/ ‘position sense’- the ability of your body to tell your brain where it is in space, with your eyes closed [1-3]. This understanding (proprioception) is essential for movement planning and execution. Watch our short video about chiropractic to find out how.
Research is beginning to show that using pain as the only indicator of lower back dysfunction might actually be causing part of your problem, because you might not be aware of the movement dysfunction or muscle activation problems that could be the underlying (pre-existing) cause of injury.
2. The flexibility to be able to move:
This also includes chiropractic adjustments, because it allows your joints to move through their optimal available range of motion. This should also include regular stretching and movements through your range of movement. This could include things like yoga, the Straighten Up New Zealand program, and general stretching. We also recommend massage and myofascial release to help with tissue softening and flexibility.
3. Improving and maintaining muscular strength:
Regardless of whether you are a professional or amateur athlete, or if you have washboard abs or not, this section is for everyone. Good muscular strength- AND the ability to USE it properly- involves having optimal underlying neurological control/ feedback of muscles, and then training the muscles to support the lower back. Research is beginning to show that chiropractic adjustments improve the output of strength in your arm and leg muscles , as well as influence the protective pre-activation/ contraction of your core muscles to help with stability prior to performing a movement or activity .
You may not even be aware that your core muscles are not working properly, because a delay in protective core muscle contraction can happen in the absence of pain! Having a delayed ability to activate core abdominal muscles appropriately appears to be a pre-existing risk factor for developing a low back injury , so this is definitely something you want to work well.
As well as getting checked with your chiropractor, you could also include core classes, pilates/yoga, functional gym activities, physio, and lower back stability exercises to improve your spinal stability. Be sure you talk with your chiropractor about assessing your basic pelvic floor function and core coordination/stability to get the most out of any training.
-  Haavik & Murphy. J Electromyogr Kines. October 2012 2012; 22(5):768-76
-  Haavik & Murphy, JMPT. 2011; 34:88-97
-  Holt et al. JMPT. 2016; 39(4):267-78
-  Vila-Cha et al. J App Phys. 2012; 112(1):54-63
-  Marshall P, Murphy B, JMPT. 2006; 29(3):196-202
-  Cholewicki J, Silfies S, Shah R, et al, Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2005; 30(23):2614-2620