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Core training for low back pain.. inaccurate? A myth? Mis-information?

A woman doing core training. Is core training for low back pain mis-information?

Many questions and dubious "claims" float around these days questioning whether "core training" is really the key to improving low back pain.. but the major issue or point being missed is the purpose of core or midsection training in relation to low back pain. People tend to deal in absolutes trying to pin point a specific area such as the lower spinal region to work on.. after all thats where it hurts right? In reality there is more to it than just "core" training, hence innacuracies in questioning core exercise.

The phrases "core activation" or "core stability" and even "engage the core" are overused in general, and so overused that it tends to roll from the tongue as habit in the health and fitness world without any real meaning.

To manage and improve low back pain there has to be a proper understanding of low back pain itself, and what is actually involved to make progress. This is where misconceptions are widespread and fall behind in understanding exercise in relation to back pain.. with commonly no real information.

Physical activity for low back pain is long established as are the practices involved, and sadly some "health advice processes" for exercise are only just realising this too. There is still a major lack of unified information into how non-specific low back pain is actually managed for the good of the client. Education is key.


On the contrary. Core training regularly forms part of back programs though to what extent, application and exercises used are dependant on individual need. The issue is commonly inaccurate advice regarding just focusing on core strength for low back pain. To solely focus on this area is at fault and not a negative outlook on core training itself. To get to the root of the issue it is important to note that back pain should be approached with the bigger picture or whole body approach. Not just one specific area.

This is usually the basis of exercise prescription that I provide to my own clients.

To completely focus on the lower spine area hoping to improve low back pain (LBP) is nieve and mis-informed. To do this would be a little like.. focusing on abdominal work to lose "belly fat". The body just doesnt work like that. There is a multi angle or "multi faceted" plan needed to make actual progress with LBP.


Core training is not to be resigned to the scrap heap - because it forms part of the process, and there are variables of exercise in relation to an individuals physical ability. Physical ability is a point to note..

Not ALL back pain clients have the ability to simply do a few exercises, as there are in reality severe mobility and flexibility restrictions. There can be additional complications such as secondary health conditions to be considered. There can be medication side effects to be taken into account.

There can be limited knowledge and exercise experience for an individual, and the idea of simply suggesting (and assuming) they can start throwing a barbell around for example, is not only incompetent but ludicrous. Rarely does "advice" ever take into account the complicated situations that sufferers of LBP may be experiencing.


Core work as mentioned previously does have a role to play, being part of the process to pain improvement.. but is only PART of the process in the world of LBP.

Consider the abdominals as an example. These are tough muscles in general and therefore tough to train, as they assist support in a fit and generally healthy person daily in just about every activity. They also have a huge range of motion which needs to be considered when incorporating abdominal work in a program.

The crucial fact to remember is that not everyone with low back pain has good physical and functional ability. Core training is valuable in encouraging body and positional awareness and increasing a persons confidence in "safe" movement to start working with LBP.

A skilled and highly experienced instructor is able to assess and determine the way forward for a client and perfectly adapt exercise and activity for the individual. This commonly does NOT come out of a textbook, magazine or random online video. The personal circumstances of a client must be priority to make progress.


The bigger picture or whole body approach is essential in the long run to make reductions in low back pain discomfort. This means more than just the "core" is involved and involves exercise from head to toe. Many muscle groups are involved and not just skeletal muscle but other components of fitness such as cardiovascular health and even flexibility.

Again, any exercise program must be relevant and appropriate for a person, with adaptations if neccessary. Exercises can be made to suit a person with varying uses in application. Once physical ability improves so does physical progression.

Working with low back pain begins with a form of suitable assessment which creates a foundation from which to work from. The causes of LBP or possible causes have to be looked at which shapes prescription. There are usually multiple influences for the onset of back pain and any core strength training is only a fraction of the equation due to this.

In summary, core training is not mis-information or a myth. The only mis-information is from general perceptions that dont understand the correct approach to back pain management and improvement. It is unrealistic to just focus on core work and disregard everything else. Core training is like any other exercises that can be applied and adapted for varying needs, and rarely a standalone activity.

Would you like to make progress with low back pain? Would you like unbiased advice and experienced instruction for low back pain relief long term? Graham Kavanagh is York's specialist exercise instructor in York.

For more info how I can help you, why not book your free consultation?

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