I frequently see people who have suffered lower back pain for longstanding duration. It is surprising how often this can be the result of over-working the core muscles.

The psoas muscles, also known as the core muscles, are frequently targeted as being the muscles that must be worked hard to stay strong.

Although it is important to keep these muscles strong, they do retain a level of fitness in day to day activities such as walking and standing. Overworking them can result in exhaustion and consequent weakness to the muscle, along with damage to the lumbar spine.

It is important to recognise that excessive training of these muscles can be very dangerous to the low back and can in fact result in disc damage. This is because this muscle attaches directly to, not only the vertebral joints from T11/12 to L5, but also to the discs at these levels.

It is very difficult to stretch the core psoas muscles. They attach directly into the diaphragm fascial fibres which encircle the lower thoracic region around the ribcage. They also attach into the iliac muscle fibres on the inside of the pelvic bones. Since these attachments are directly onto bones, to fully stretch the fibres would require the type of flexibility only high-level gymnasts acquire. In my opinion it is not wise to consistently contract any muscle that cannot be easily extended.

 

If you are concerned about whether you are doing damage to your lower back, by overexercising these muscles, my advice is to cease core work until you can ascertain whether the muscles are currently weak or strong.
To determine the strength, or weakness, of the muscles it is best to request a muscle strength assessment. It is also important not to automatically assume they are weak through lack of training as the reverse is frequently true.

If you have had lower back issues, I suggest that caution should be taken when enrolling in any programme that specifically targets these muscles.

I am so passionate about these topics and I hope that this information is helpful to anyone experiencing lower back issues.