Spinal instability is a big problem for many people. 

The spine has very complex movements, with hundreds of muscle groups, over 48 joints, and thousands of nerves. This requires a complicated ballet of precision balance and movement. With injury, or if you have a sedentary lifestyle, the coordination of the spinal muscles can become unbalanced. This places an enormous amount of pressure on key spots in the lower back, increasing inflammation and pain.

A large area of instability in the lower back is found at the levels of L3-S1. This is due to the inward curvature of the spine at this level. In some people, this curvature is too great, causing a damaging shear force. If left unchecked for years, this can cause ligament and muscle damage leading to a condition called spondylolesthesis.

The lower back also depends on the strength and stability of the core muscles. These include the abdominal, pelvic, and lower back muscles. They maintain the correct alignment and stability of the lower back.

With injury and inactivity, your core muscles weaken, causing a sagging of the lower back and protrusion of the abdomen. This is especially noted when you become tired, or stand for a long period.

Core muscle weakness occurs frequently in women during and after pregnancy. These muscles are severely stretched during pregnancy and delivery. Many women suffer with abdominal or pelvic floor muscle damage, which increases spinal instability.

physiotherapist helping a patient sitting on the bed relieve back pain

How to improve your spinal stability

  • Work on simple exercises to increase the strength and stamina of your core muscles. These include exercises to strengthen your abdominals, hip, pelvic, and spinal muscles. A physical therapist teaches you the proper exercises for your particular condition.
  • Practice keeping your lower abdominals gently drawn towards your belly button. This helps to align the spine and tighten your internal muscle support.
  • Keep your abdominals gently tightened when you bend, squat or reach. This helps you keep your spine in alignment during these moments of greater spinal stress.
  • Perform exercises that involve multiple body parts at one time. This engages more of the core muscles. For example, instead of just performing exercises to work out your arms, then legs separately, do exercises such as alternating leg/arm lifts.
  • Improve your balance. Performing balance exercises increases your ability to engage your core muscles and improves your stability.

How physical therapy helps your spinal stability

Physical therapists are physiotherapy experts in treating back and neck problems. They have years of medical training in examining how the body moves and are registered with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario. By evaluating your spinal movement, muscle strength, coordination and stability, we pinpoint the root cause of your problem. For example, discover that you have a weakness around a specific segment of your spine, we then plan to perform specific hands-on therapy and exercises to target that problem area. As a result, your body’s natural movements are restored, alleviating pain. Various physiotherapy treatments are also available at our physio clinic.

Reach us at any of our physiotherapy treatment centres in BowmanvilleCobourgOshawaPeterborough, and Port Hope. You could also book online.

This article is part of our free back pain relief manual; You can download it by clicking here.

Dave Evans

Owner / Registered Physiotherapist


About the Author

This article was written by We-Fix-U’s Owner and experienced Registered Physiotherapist in Bowmanville. He has taken a special interest in treating back injuries since his own back surgery and rehab experience. His highlights have been working as a Physio alongside the athletes from the 2000 Olympics. Dave is always willing to help when needed.

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