Why Strengthening Your Core Could be Hurting Your Back

Core Strength

As you probably already know – we specialize in back pain and core strengthening and stabilization.

So why on earth would I be writing to you about how strengthening your core could actually be hurting your back instead of helping??

One of the number one reasons people come to see us is because they want to strengthen their core – in hopes that it will put an end to their back pain.

But here’s the thing about core strengthening and back pain…

In most cases it will make you feel better and possibly even take away your pain. But there are many times when core strengthening is not right for your back – and can make you worse.

The biggest misconception I see when it comes to getting rid of back pain is that if the pain is gone – the problem is gone.


And this is where people can get in trouble…

When recovering from back pain – if you try to strengthen your core too soon – it will come back with a vengeance.

Here are a few ways to tell if strengthening your core could be hurting your back instead of helping…

1. You Feel Stiffer After Workouts.

As I mentioned previously, the absence of back pain does not mean you have addressed the root cause of your back problem. This is especially true if you’re prone to “throwing your back out” year after year.

One of the precursors to a full blown back pain episode is stiffness.

If you find that your spine feels more stiff after your core strengthening routine, it could be a sign that you are aggravating your back instead of helping it. It’s only a matter of time before you wake up one morning stuck in pain and unable to move.

In our office, whenever we transition our clients from back pain treatment to our Core strengthening and stabilization program, we teach them how to self-assess and check their spines.

This allows them to know if the core strengthening being done is starting to aggravate them for some reason. If their self-assessment reveals a stiffening back, they know how to correct this before it turns into pain, allowing them to quickly get back to strengthening without skipping a beat.

2. Your Neck Hurts

I’ve spoken about this before – but increased neck pain or tension during or after core workouts is typically a sign that you’re not activating your core properly.

Your deep neck flexors are connected to your deep core by fascia – so if your core isn’t working – your neck is going to tell you.

How does this impact your back?

If you’re trying to work your core to recover from back pain, but your core isn’t actually working the way it’s supposed to – this could be a big problem for you.

It’s only a matter of time before your back pain returns.

Learning how to activate and build your core strength the right way is important all of the time – but it’s critical when you’re recovering from back pain.

Your neck will tell you if this isn’t going the way it should.

3. Your Hamstrings are Sore and Achy

A good core strengthening program targets more than just your abs. You should be strengthening your hips, glutes, and hamstrings as well.

While it’s normal to have some soreness after a good workout, when it comes to back pain, it’s important that you know the difference between muscle soreness and pain caused by nerve irritation.

Where you feel your pain and how it behaves is one of your best clues…

Let’s say that after a good Core strengthening, Core stabilization or Pilates session you notice soreness in both of your thighs and hamstrings the next day. This is typically considered “good” soreness. It’s symmetrical, feels better when you stretch, and likely subsides in 2-3 days. The more you work out, the less this soreness seems to occur.

But let’s say you feel an ache or a pull down only one of your hamstrings after a Pilates class. You stretch and it doesn’t help. It possibly even aggravates your leg. You rest, the pain goes away, but then comes right back after your next workout.

This could be a sign that your core strengthening routine is causing irritation to a nerve in your spine.

If you don’t address this, your leg won’t feel any better and your back will start to hurt as well.

If you feel pain or soreness anywhere in your body after a workout, it’s important that you learn to recognize the difference between good muscle pain, and not so good pain, so that you can correct problems before they happen.

If any of this is sounding familiar, and you’re not sure if strengthening your core right now is good for your back…

Then consider talking a back pain specialist at my clinic by CLICKING HERE.

My back pain specialists are available right now for FREE Discovery Sessions.

We will speak with you about what’s going on with your back and let you know if we can help!

You’ll walk away armed with all the information you need to make your next best decision about what it’s going to take to get rid of your back pain – so you can get back to a core strengthening routine that actually works.

CLICK HERE to request a Free Discovery Session with a back pain specialist at my clinic.

Trupti Mehta, PT, MS, OCS

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