oleksiy kononov

Core muscles and low back pain (LBP)

A 5-minute article that will help relieve low back pain and tell you why it’s worth training your core muscles.

Comparing to other groups of muscles, many of us still train the core muscles one-sidedly, just for having six-pack abs :).

Let’s figure out together the other benefits of training the core muscles in this 5-minute article.
❕ An article is aimed at coaches and thinking athletes.
❕ The article reveals my experience of dealing with low back pain (LBP).
❕ The article is based on the tutorial “NASM Essentials of Sports Performance Training” and personal experience.
The weak spot is lower back, since the age of 14 it has been hurting with varying degrees of severity. There is a routine set of exercises that has enabled me to keep this problem under control for more than 20 years. However, there was a strong exasperation last autumn during the lockdown period, due to an unexpected break in the sports career. The pain was acute, and I decided to seek support.
#️⃣ Operation VS Rehabilitation
First, I had a doctor’s appointment in a public hospital. It was a 5–minute meeting. 3 questions. The X-rays. Finally, the word ‘operation’ was clearly pronounced. I realized that I had made a mistake of seeing such a medical practitioner. I remembered, according to the chapter 1 of “The Back Doctor” by the Canadian neurosurgeon Hamilton Hall, the statistics claims only 2% of successful or desirable for a patient result in spinal surgeries [1].
An osteopath was the second person for me to apply in that situation. The consultation was similar to shamanism. I had been laying on the guru’s hand (which hardly moved) for 40 minutes. I got terribly cold. I left. The pain remained.
The third consultation was scheduled at S. Bubnovsky rehabilitation center. I recollected how I had bought my mother some books by the doctor 6 years before, their main message was that movement is life. I decided that was closer to my views on rehabilitation.
The reception at the center begins with motor tests. The doctor claims that the cause of the pain is often a muscle imbalance.
For example: the muscles on the right are stronger and shorter than the muscles on the left. Such distortions appear under the influence of our lifestyle.

Pain is just a signal of an imbalance in the system, and the task is not just to remove, ‘extinguish’ the pain, but to identify and fix the cause.
Thus, I took tests that spotted weakness in the core muscles, especially the buttocks. To be more precise, I could not lift my hips off the floor while lying on my stomach.
The rehabilitologist said I needed to strengthen the core and buttocks, and everything would be super-duper.

The task was clear; I went to carry it out. Nevertheless, after 2 weeks I found out: there was almost no progress. I was training with all my might, although the muscles had no sign of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
#️⃣ Athlete VS Mother-in-law
In a conversation with a friend, also an athlete, I heard once: “Oleksii, there is some mystic stuff, you have been training all your life; judging by the video, you are fit as a fiddle now, compared to my mother-in-law. Nevertheless, she can tear off her hips while lying on her stomach, but you can’t. It’s most likely that ‘muscles don’t hear’ you”.

Hmmm... indeed, I really wondered if the muscle weakness was the cause of pain, or the pain was the cause of the muscle weakness?
I kept on digging further and found some interesting research on the subject in the NASM Essentials of Sports Performance Training textbook:

Weakening of the core muscles leads to lower back pain, and lower back pain, in its turn, causes a deterioration in the innervation (signal transmission) of the abdomen muscles, extensors of the back and buttocks [2]. This is a Merciless Trap!
People with low back pain also experience a loss of strength in the gluteal muscles by up to 26% and the external rotators of the hip by 36%, which subsequently increases the risk of knee and ankle injuries.
Based on my experience, tests and research results, I have collected 3️⃣ stages that a person goes through when he / she decides to spit on the core muscles training:
Stage 1️⃣ Freebie
The training takes less, sitting gets more of your time. Day after day, losing an invisible battle with laziness.
In the meantime, a passive lifestyle acts reliably and silently, killing the working muscles fiber by fiber.

⭕️ Symptoms:
The sensations are good in general:), but for the loss of muscle mass to a greater extent in the zone of the core muscles. You will not notice it at all if you eat right, the body becomes more sculptured and ripped, but not toned, and the energy disappears.

✅ Solution:
Get back to an active lifestyle immediately. Cram time for training in your daily routine, move a little bit, but every day, gradually adding load on days when you’re on a roll, and do at least a minimum when you are on a bad streak.
People who suffered from ankle sprains, knee injuries, LBP low back pain, had poor core stabilization and weak core muscles when tested.
There is also a strong relationship between core strength, back pain, and proprioception (the sensation of the body in space).
Deep spinal muscles of people with LBP responded significantly slower than those without pain.
Stage 2️⃣ Borderline
The brain activity is enormously energy-consuming. There are subjective sensations that the brain eats energy, but does not return, unlike muscles.

You have already got the feeling of missing something important. You promise yourself to start exercising. However, you don’t even care, after having spent a lot of time at the computer, turning away from it closer to the night and realizing of being completely exhausted.

⭕️ Symptoms:
You perceive a mild pain in the lower back, there is the slightest pain in the buttock while walking. You do checking movements all the time, trying to ‘crunch’ your back in public places, checking if everything has already settled.
The pain floats, you feel a terrible stiffness in the morning, you seem to walk around in the afternoon, but the pain returns in the evening. You can still sleep well at night.

✅ Solution:
It’s high time for you to ‘wake up’ and start exercising. Without pain relieving pills, through discomfort or aching pain, showing the character. If you have skipped this point, you get to stage 3.
The training programs with the exercises to improve core stabilization and core strengthening are more effective in the long run than the manual therapy, medications, and other pain relievers.
It is important to remember that the human motion system is also called the kinetic chain. Therefore, the painful sensation may be different from the location of the pain cause.
Stage 3️⃣ The Bottom
There shows up a sharp penetrating pain that catches in a trap. As if by chance, it has blown out.

You are no longer called an upright person, you go on all fours. You can’t find a comfortable sleeping position in a bed; if a miracle happens, you fall asleep, then you wake up in pain. Wiping a stingy tear, you ask the heavens why this is for you ...

The case is already getting to the point that you need urgently restore muscle tone to get out of this hole, but it hurts to train, you lie and think, shoot me, that’s all for me ... I’m screwed.
The pain in the lower back triggers worsening of the innervation of the body muscles, the back and buttocks extensors (the droopy butt sags obviously).

⭕️ Muscles ‘turn away from you’. You can’t lift your hips while lying on your stomach, your muscles can’t hear you. You do the exercises with full dedication, but the training does not give any results. Muscles do not respond to the training load. There is no sign of DOMS. Silence. You have betrayed them; they just don’t want to do business with you anymore. Thus, it’s a real ass...
It is crucial to pay attention to violations of the basic functions of the LPHC body center when testing. Identify and fix movement restrictions and weak musculature. Such a point approach will help relieve lower back pain quickly and get back into shape.
✅ Solution:
Apply for outside help. A sports doctor, similar cases with a positive decision, therapy that will help reduce inflammation so that the active recovery can begin.

A coach or at least a program which will give confidence and foster overcoming internal corruption (since the inner voice will whisper in your ear: “…don’t move, give yourself a break, let’s lie down for another day without moving”).

It is crucially important to keep moving, even despite discomfort, to perform at least a minimum, neither to fall asleep, nor to give up. Pick out the program and do the planned amount of training.
It is also relevant to consider that force passes through the core muscles from the legs to the arms and vice versa. Understanding the idea of the weak link in the chain will also help when you look for those areas of the body that need the most attention for injury prevention and corrective movement.
These studies demonstrate the importance of core training in reducing the chances of catching the pain (LBP) and a plenty of other injuries.
So, what else is interesting in these studies?

One of the most widespread injuries among athletes is a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee, the ACL (it’s so familiar as well :)
It is more typical of adolescent athletes.
We have scrutinized that one of ways to prevent this injury is to improve the landing technique.

It has been found there is a correlation between core training and increased stability during jumping, shuttle running, and weight training. Thus, training the core muscles and improving the landing technique is an excellent preventive measure against the ACL tear.
In general, athletes with knee, ankle, inner and hamstring sprains, IT-bend syndrome, and LBP is less likely to re-injure after undergoing an active rehabilitation program aimed at improving strength and stabilizing the LPHC core muscles.

In brief, numerous studies support the key role of core training in injury prevention and rehabilitation.
I have recovered, apologized to the body :) and returned to the gymnastics hall.
I have received a great lesson. The value of the core muscle training has sparkled with new colors :)
This is the second article on the topic of core muscles, the first can be read here .
The following article will focus on the methods of training the core muscles, which are used for health and improving athletic performance.

If you find the article useful, bookmark it and use in practice.
I will be grateful if you share the article on social networks. Keep in touch...
Oleksiy Kononov
Artist Cirque Du Soleil | Professional Athlete
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Set Crazy Goals, Practice Smart. Turn yourself into a Superman.

I believe in you and I know you can do more.
With all my respect,
Oleksiy Kononov

References:

1. Гамильтон Холл. Ваш позвоночник / Пер. с англ. М. Петрова. М.: ТЕРРА – Книжный клуб, 1998. 256 с.
2. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training / Editors: Micheal A. Clark, Brian G. Sutton, Scott C. Lucett. National Academy of Sports Medicine. 4th Edition, revised. 680 р.