Weak core muscles can cause lower back pain

New research highlights how important developing a strong core is for endurance athletes

A weak core can lead to lower back problems in runners

Runners with weak deep core muscles are more prone to developing chronic low back pain say scientists.


To examine the role of the superficial and deep core muscles, researchers used motion detection technology and force-measuring floor plates to estimate muscle movements during activity.

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“We measured the dimensions of runners’ bodies and how they moved to create a computer model that’s specific to that person. That allows us to examine how every bone moves and how much pressure is put on each joint,” said lead author Ajit Chaudhari, associate professor of physical therapy and biomedical engineering at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “We can then use that simulation to virtually ‘turn off’ certain muscles and observe how the rest of the body compensates.”

What they found is that weak deep core muscles force more superficial muscles like the abs to work harder and reach fatigue faster. When those superficial muscles are doing the work the deep core should be doing, there are often painful consequences.

“When your deep core is weak, your body is able to compensate in a way that allows you to essentially run the same way,” Chaudhari said. “But that increases the load on your spine in a way that may lead to low back pain.

“Static exercises that force you to fire your core and hold your body in place are what’s really going to make you a better runner.”


The study has been published in the Journal of Biomechanics

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