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Which Muscle Is To Blame For Low Back Pain?

When low back pain strikes we want to blame something quickly! We like to believe it was because we didn’t have the right level of mobility, we don’t have enough core stability, or very commonly that there is a particular muscle that just isn’t strong enough to prevent our low back pain from arising.

One of the all too common mistakes of fitness is to believe many issues like low back pain are correlated to strength issues of particular muscles. Especially with social media, people are quick to tell you that your low back pain is just because you aren’t strong in the “right” muscles.

To be fair, there are studies that say that increased strength of the lumbar muscles can help people with low back pain (1). However, there are also studies that show that these relationships aren’t as strong as people may think.

“they were unable to find significant correlations between functionality and pain with low levels of trunk strength or spine ROM…This is in agreement with Renkawitz et al., who did not find a direct association between LBP and trunk extensor maximal isometric strength in tennis athletes after an intervention program including exercises for strength, coordination, and mobility, as well as trunk and lumbar stretching exercises. In addition, Grosdent et al. failed to find differences between tennis players with or without current LBP in terms of trunk isometric torque and spine ROM, which may also demonstrate a low relationship between levels of strength and flexibility as cause or prevalence of CLBP condition. In agreement with these studies, Nadler et al. did not find any significant relationship between low levels of hip flexibility and rate of collegiate athletes requiring treatment for LBP; Arab et al.did not find any significant difference in hip strength levels between LBP individuals with and without iliotibial tightness, which is associated and common during CLBP, and Lee et al. did not find significant differences between young adults with and without LBP in trunk flexor and extensor isokinetic peak torque.” (2)

Of course it isn’t bad to train low back strength, core stability, work on hip mobility, train the hip muscles and more (assuming it doesn’t cause increase levels of pain), but to believe that even the most consistent work in these areas will result in solving chronic low back pain, is not a guarantee.

That is because chronic low back pain is a lot more complicated than most people realize. You can see how the International Association For The Study Of Pain actually explains the complexity of pain…

low back pain

Developing a program to help people with chronic low back pain needs to be multi-faceted. Research shows that education about the science of pain, trying to increase social connection, exposing people to movement that doesn’t create pain, and having a well balanced training program can greatly impact one’s chronic low back pain. In fact, a study of “thirty-seven patients with non-specific chronic low back pain were allocated into control, (who just maintained their current rehabilitation programme), or training groups, which combined an additional functional training programme of aerobic exercise, muscular strength and flexibility. Back pain was found to significantly decrease by 52.5% in the training group. (3)

However, what is interesting as well is that two case studies of people who were found to have exercise addictions and non-specific low back pain were improved when they actually exercised less and went through the steps we described above.

This shows that everything has to be in balance and sometimes those who sacrifice in other aspects of their life (like good social connections) for their fitness goals can actually make themselves more prone to experience low back pain. That is how complicated low back pain really can be and why we can’t just be looking at individual muscles or just at stretching or strength to solve the needs of such individuals.

That is why we are so excited to be offering our new Low Back Pain & Pelvic Control 6-week Online Masterclass. Physical therapist, Jessica Bento and I will be taking you not only through more effective mobility, stability, and strength exercises, but we are going to help you better understand the complexity of chronic low back pain and other strategies that are incredibly effective, and backed by research, that will help you separate you in the ability to make a difference in people’s chronic pain!

Save 15% off for a limited time with code “lowback” and sign-up HERE


  1. Carpenter DM, Nelson BW. Low back strengthening for the prevention and treatment of low back pain. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1999 Jan;31(1):18-24. DOI: 10.1097/00005768-199901000-00005. PMID: 9927005.
  2. Victora Ruas, C.; Vieira, A. Do Muscle Strength Imbalances and Low Flexibility Levels Lead to Low Back Pain? A Brief Review. J. Funct. Morphol. Kinesiol. 2017, 2, 29. https://doi.org/10.3390/jfmk2030029
  3. A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain