Having treated spine dysfunctions for over 16 years, I have heard and seen all kinds of myths people have about the “core” and how that relates to back pain. Most people have heard about the core and how training it prevents from having back pain. But how they apply it to overcome back pain often is faulty. I frequently use “core stabilization” or “core activation” as I call, to reduce back pain and to make sure that the back pain does not return. However, over the years I have realized that the core means different things to different people. More often than not, this misunderstanding leads people to do “core training exercises” that actually worsen their back pain and occasionally lead to an irreversible spine issue.Some of the myths that primarily go around are as follows:

Myth#1: The core another name for the abdominals.Often, people associate their abdominal muscles with the core which makes them want to do exercises that focus on them only. This is a mistake that can lead to more harm than good. The ‘core’ is made up of all the muscles which attach to the pelvis, hips, and spine, not only the abdominals. The core includes the diaphragm, pelvic floor, abdominals, back muscles, hip flexors, hamstrings, buttock muscles, and muscles of the neck. A healthy core workout is one that focuses on all these muscles simultaneously.

Myth #2: Doing abdominal crunches will result in a strong core.This is one of the worst myths. Unfortunately, a huge number of people end up with a disc herniation only because they thought doing crunches was the best way to work their core! Crunches target the rectus abdominis, the most superficial abdominal muscle (also known as the six-pack). It is only one muscle of the entire core complex. Over-strengthening this muscle will lead to poor posture and back problems. Aim to strengthen all the muscles of your core for a balanced body.

Myth #3: Training your core will give you a six-pack.Training your core and getting a six-pack have nothing to do with each other! Core training targets your muscles, not the surrounding fat. A sensible diet and exercise regime will reduce the belly fat and expose the muscles underneath. Only a combination of these two will give you a six-pack.

My recommendation to anyone who has back pain is to have a medical professional diagnose and treat you thoroughly and only follow an exercise regime for the core as provided by your physiotherapist or fitness trainer.