Core Strengthening Activities to Ease Back Pain


The core of the body includes the abdominal muscles, obliques, the muscles in the back, and the muscles of the pelvic floor. If these muscles weaken, the body often relies on ligaments, spinal bones and discs for balance and stability. This can lead to chronic back or neck pain, which can interfere with daily activities. Core strengthening is beneficial in maintaining proper posture and correct spinal alignment; however, a weak core can worsen existing chronic back and neck pain.

Health care professionals frequently recommend core strengthening activities to ease back pain, especially in the lower back. Core strength helps the spine to balance weight, support mobility, and prevent or reduce chronic back and neck pain.

Core strengthening activities

A health care professional should be consulted prior to implementing new physical activities into daily routines. Additionally, listen to body cues to avoid overexertion. Discontinue any physical activities that cause or increase pain and contact a medical professional.

There are numerous activities that target the core. The following are examples of physical activities that can strengthen the core muscles in order to help the spine balance weight.


  • Lie on the ground with the knees bent. Feet should be flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Place the hands down to the side.
  • Lift the glutes off of the floor until the area from shoulders to knees makes a straight line.
  • Hold approximately two seconds, while pulling the abdominal muscles toward the spine.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Side plank

  • Begin by lying on one side with the knees bent but in line with the chest and shoulder (the top leg may be extended for an extra challenge).
  • Prop the upper body on the elbow and forearm, with the elbow directly below the shoulder.
  • Lift the hips off of the floor using the oblique muscles.
  • Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and release.
  • Repeat three to five times and change sides.

Bird dog

  • Kneel on all fours (if wrist pain occurs, use the elbows).
  • Keep the abdominal muscles tight.
  • Raise one leg while drawing the belly button towards the spine.
  • Reach out with the opposite arm and raise slowly.
  • Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, and keep breathing.
  • Repeat on the other side.


  • Lie on the back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Cross the arms over the chest or place them behind the neck.
  • Tighten the abdominal muscles.
  • Raise shoulders off of the floor while exhaling (avoid leading with elbows or using arms to pull the neck forward).
  • Tilt the pelvis towards the chin to engage core muscles.
  • Hold for one to two seconds.
  • Release, relax and repeat 10 to 15 times.


  • Stand and take a large step back with one leg and foot.
  • Engage the abdominal muscles.
  • Tilt the pelvis forward.
  • Keep the knees at a 90-degree angle while lowering straight down.
  • Raise straight up.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times.
  • Change sides and repeat.

Leg extensions

  • Lie on the back with the knees bent and together.
  • Life the hips upward while tightening the core muscles.
  • Place the hands underneath the tailbone with the palms down.
  • Press lower back into the floor and lift the knees.
  • Alternate each leg while keeping the knee bent to do a toe tap on the floor. For an extra challenge, extend the entire leg.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Wide squats

  • Stand with the feet a bit wider than shoulder width.
  • Keep the knees behind the toes and squat.
  • Slowly stand back up and repeat this activity 10 to 15 times.

Narrow squats

  • Stand with the feet close together.
  • Push the rear back and squat. The squat will not be as low as with the wide squats.
  • Slowly stand back up and repeat 10 to 15 times.

Calf raises

  • Stand behind a chair with the knees and toes in the forward direction.
  • Lift the heels straight up while using the chair for balance. Be sure to pull the abdominal muscles in tight while raising the heels.
  • Slowly place the heels back down.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Seated toe touch

  • Sit on the floor with the knees bent.
  • Draw the belly button back towards the spine and hinge back.
  • Reach towards the opposite toe.
  • Switch to the other side.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Pilates, aerobics and yoga are also great physical activities that can help strengthen the core muscles.