Will strengthening your core get rid of back pain?

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

Pilates has long been known as the staple in core strengthening. We’ve been incorporating Pilates into our physical therapy practice for the last 10 years and it’s been transformational for my clients. Pilates is a full body strengthening system that emphasizes breath, precision, coordination, and core strength — and it helps our clients connect to their bodies in a way that they haven’t been able to achieve with traditional strengthening methods.

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

Core strengthening — especially Pilates — is one of the best ways I’ve found to prevent back pain and keep it gone. But core strengthening alone is not enough to completely resolve a back problem, especially one that keeps coming back every few months.

The statistics show that 4 out of 5 people will suffer from a debilitating back episode at some point in their lives.

And while many back pain episodes appear to resolve on their own with rest and avoidance of activity, there are underlying problems that can go on unaddressed for years. Problems that won’t get resolved by strengthening your core.

For example, you could have a bulging disc that is responsible for irritating or pinching a nerve in your back. Research shows that 80% of the time, something like a bulging disc can be resolved with corrective movements of the spine. That’s actually why most back surgeries where they just cut the disc out fail. And it’s also why general strengthening exercises, even those that specifically target your core, also don’t completely resolve the problem.

You must address the underlying root cause of why your disc continues to bulge over and over, and learn how to correct it.

Once you know that, you can use something like Pilates and core strengthening to give you the best possible shot at your disc not bulging again. But even so, it can and most likely will, which is why you need the combination of both specific corrective exercises and proper strengthening to truly get control over your back problem for good.

It’s why we love combining both in our practice. Our specialist PT team works closely with our Pilates team to ensure that all our clients are not only getting the proper strengthening for their backs — but the proper movement as well!