Back Pain From Weak Core

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Are you suffering from back pain? What if we told you that your back muscles might not be the culprit? Lower back pain can stem from various causes, but one of the most common reasons for experiencing back pain is a weak core. 

The body’s core is a complex network of different muscles, bones, tendons, and joints. When one component is slightly off, it can affect neighbouring muscle groups and body parts. 

But how does a weak core cause back pain, and how can you correct the issue?

What Are Core Muscles?

The core comprises more than one muscle that works together to provide strength and support for your abdomen. 

The main components of the core are:

  • The abs (also known as the rectus abdominis)
  • The transversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscles that wrap around your midsection)
  • The internal and external obliques 
  • The multifidus (a deep muscle that runs alongside your spine)
  • The pelvic floor muscles (these muscles help make up the floor/bottom of your core)
  • The thoracic diaphragm (the breathing muscles at the top of your core)

These components help stabilize your core, especially the areas around your lower back, pelvis, and abdomen. 

How a Weak Core Causes Pain

Your core is what holds your body upright. It provides stability, balance, postural support, and the ability to bend/move. The core muscles are split into two categories known as “stabilizers” and “movers.” The stabilizing group helps maintain core strength, while the movers help bend, move, twist, and sit up. 

A weak core is the most common cause of low back pain. However, poor posture, lack of flexibility, and injuries from a car accident or fall can cause severe back pain, as well.

Core muscles can begin to weaken if they haven’t been engaged for extended periods. As they become weaker, the spine doesn’t receive the much-needed support that it requires.  

In addition, the muscles may become strained as they work twice as hard to support the upper body. The lack of core strength can cause spinal cord compression as the muscles attempt to compensate for the weak core.  

Over time, your back may experience nerve compression, increased joint pressure, and other spinal injuries. 

What Are the Signs of a Weak Core?

Four signs are commonly associated with low back pain from a weak core: 

Poor Posture

Poor posture is one of the first symptoms of a weak or injured core. Many people notice their shoulders slumping as the first sign. Individuals may also experience pain while standing or sitting up straight. The postural change is a direct result of poor core stability and strength. As the core weakens, the upper body doesn’t receive the support it once had and begins to slump forward. 

Low Back Pain

Next to poor posture, lower back pain is a telltale sign of weak abdominal muscles. As core strength lessens, the back muscles begin to overwork themselves. People may notice low back pain as they lift, run, or perform other exercises. Back pain results from the core’s inability to provide the right amount of support that it should. 

Muscle Weakness 

As the core weakens, you may experience difficulty lifting heavy loads or participating in exercises. Sudden muscle weakness may be due to the loss of strength in the midsection that helps the muscles of your limbs. Whenever you lift something heavy, you’re engaging your core. If the core is too weak, the rest of the muscles may experience weakness, too. 


Surprisingly, fatigue can be a sign of a weak core. Symptoms may start as shortness of breath or feeling strain or pain when tightening the abdomen. Feelings of fatigue are due to the lack of strength in the upper body, which makes performing other tasks or exercises extremely challenging. 

What Are the Long-Term Health Issues of Having a Weak Core?

Leaving your core weak can result in long-term issues that can lead to dysfunction in your movement and affect your day-to-day life. 

The three common health issues that can arise from a weak core include the following:

  • Posture: Maintaining good posture helps facilitate breathing and is paramount for the health of your spine, bladder, and bowels. If core weakness is present for too long, it can lead to serious discomfort and risk of injury. Making the slightest move could injure your back and result in a need for corrective surgery. A weakened posture can also lead to issues with bowel movements. 
  • Mobility: As the body’s core muscles weaken, other muscles must pick up the slack. If those muscles aren’t strong enough, you could begin to experience severe pain or injuries from overworking them. Over time, the muscles in your arms, legs, hips, neck, or back may lose their strength, making it challenging to move around.
  • Digestion: It may come as a surprise, but digestion is a common issue that stems from a weakened core. Slouching and poor posture can put pressure on the abdomen and force stomach acid into the esophagus. As a result, stomach acid can produce painful heartburn while the body tries to digest. Constipation may also become a serious challenge because of hunching forward while sitting. Your knees may drop lower than your hips, making it harder for your abdominal muscles to contract and complete bowel movements easily. 

How To Treat Back Pain Caused by Weak Core Muscles

You can perform simple exercises to strengthen your core and prevent further injuries or dysfunctions. 

Some basic exercises include:

  • Plank: A classic exercise that includes holding your body in a position while engaging multiple core muscles in a push-up position. Come down onto your forearms, keep your elbows on the ground, and ensure your back is straight. This exercise works your abs, glutes, and quads.
  • Squat: A squat exercise is a sit-and-stand motion while relying on your core and legs to do the work. Keep your hips directly over your feet and move into a sitting position. Hold the position for a few seconds, stand up, and repeat. Squats help strengthen your core and back. 
  • Bridge: Lay on your back with your knees bent and keep your back pressed on the ground. Make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight as you raise your hips off the floor. Hold the position for as long as possible without losing your form. 

Pilates can also provide positive results that strengthen your core and alleviate low back pain and may be included in prescribed exercise treatment by a professional physiotherapist.

Make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists today if you’re experiencing back pain from a weak core. Our Winnipeg physiotherapy clinic has the resources and treatments to alleviate your pain and provide comfort in your life once again.

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