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  • Writer's pictureLorenzo Basso

Is Core Strengthening The Best Exercise For Back Pain? Probably Not What You Think.

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

If you search online for "Best exercises for back pain", chances are that you will come across core strengthening exercises. This type of exercise is often taught by physiotherapists and Pilates instructors. While it can be helpful in some cases, it is not always the best option for everyone. In this blog post, we will explore how core strengthening exercises became popular in the physiotherapy world, and how they compare to other exercise options.

core strength exercise

How core-strength training became popular

Core strengthening exercises became popular in the 1990s when research began to show that people with chronic back pain had weaker deep muscles around the spine. As a result, physiotherapists started to focus on prescribing core strengthening exercises with the intent to stabilize the spine. However, it can be argued that deep muscles weakness is a consequence of back pain and inactivity, and not the reason why people develop back pain.

Why core stability training is not the best option for everyone

Many people with back pain are already tense and apprehensive about flexing their spine. Strengthening the deep muscles can potentially aggravate their stiffness in the lower back. We may also increase people's fears of movement by telling them that their spine must be tight at all times.

What's the best exercise for back pain according to science?

According to current research, most forms of exercise are beneficial for back pain, and studies comparing core stability training with general exercise (walking, stretching etc.) did not find any significant difference. Results from a recent meta-analysis by Tataryn et al. showed that posterior chain resistance training have greater effect than general exercise on pain, level of disability and muscular strength. In light of this research, it appears that exercises such as deadlift, hip thrust and superman are good options to considered when prescribing exercises for back pain.


General exercise is beneficial for recovering and preventing back pain, and the choice of exercise is not as important as we once thought. However, exercises that target the posterior chain muscles seem to offer the greatest benefits for people with back pain. Subjective needs, preferences, and goals should also be considered when prescribing exercises in order to improve outcomes and make the activity more enjoyable.

Lorenzo Basso physiotherapist

Stride Fitness & Clinic

Telephone/WhatsApp +65 8882 4325

Address: 3 Shenton Way, #12-08 Shenton House, Singapore 068805

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