How to Decrease Back Pain with Intra-Abdominal Pressure

We all know that the world is only getting more technologically advanced. Technology has advanced the human experience dramatically in terms of mental stimulation and intelligence.

We all know that the world is only getting more technologically advanced. Technology has advanced the human experience dramatically in terms of mental stimulation and intelligence. Physically the opposite is true, for the most part. According to Time, one in four American adults sit for more than eight hours a day, so no wonder numerous people have back pain or struggle when training for a race or exercise activity. With all of this sitting, we are not lowering our risk for intra-abdominal infections let alone increasing our core stability. 


The sedentary lifestyle that has evolved is inevitable. Being in any position for a prolonged period of time forces adaptation to the position. Adaptation, one of life’s greatest gifts, can also be a huge downfall for the human body. Usually, the process of adaptation only has efficiency in mind. This may include the efficiency of mating, day-to-day operations, catching prey, survival, etc. Immediate efficiency does not take into account long-term effects. 

In my opinion, the adaptation that caused this epidemic of low back pain is the lack of a stable core, and I’m not referring to a 6-pack. A sedentary lifestyle influences increased tone in the same muscles that act as accessory inspiratory muscles. These muscles include Pectoralis Major and Minor, Sternocleidomastoid, Serratus Anterior, and Scalenes.

Because of the increased tone and neurological sensitivity to these muscles, they are much more active in breathing at rest. If our secondary respiration muscles become dominant (because of adaptation), we do not have to rely on our primary inspiration muscles to handle its full load. This means less contraction of the diaphragm and intercostals. If we cannot get into full contraction of our diaphragm, we cannot create the necessary intra-abdominal pressure to stabilize our core.

What Does a Stable Core Mean? 

Most of us do not have a stable core (period), not only because of this adaptation to our prolonged positions but because we don’t know what a stable core means anymore. Like I stated previously, a stable core is not a six-pack. A stable core looks more like a baby’s belly. Can you picture that cute gut hanging over the diaper? A baby is able to use descension of the diaphragm and eccentric tone of transversus abdominis and obliques to create intra-abdominal pressure to stabilize in a variety of positions.

Ideal stabilization of your core should look more like the inflation of a balloon within your stomach. Rectus abdominis (our six-pack muscles) and erectors (big muscles on either side of the spine running all the way up) on the other hand, only stabilizes us in the sagittal plane of motion, or front to back. If this compensation resides, we are then at a loss of stabilization in rotation, lateral flexion, and anywhere in between. Not only are we at a lack of stabilization with this compensation, but we are also in a strategy that increases compression on the lumbar spine, which means the discs and other associated joints. 

Intra-Abdominal Pressue

Being able to stabilize the lower back with the use of intra-abdominal pressure allows us to create a sphere of stabilization. This allows us to not only use our limbs off of stability but also transfer loads from the lower extremity to the upper extremity. For this reason, the creation of intra-abdominal pressure is massively important to weekend warriors and athletes alike. 

Correct Way to Stabilize Our Core

Everyone hears about how important the core is to a healthy back and function. How many of us really know the correct way to stabilize our core? Let’s try a test. Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly button. Take a big, deep breath in. What did you notice? Ideally, the top hand should not move at all and the bottom hand should be moving out with each deep breath in. Being able to create intra-abdominal pressure is the key. Being able to do this during functional movements takes the stress and abuse off of the low back by relieving the compensating structures. 

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If you want to exit low back pain, limit the future risk of low back pain, or maximize potential, contact us today to learn more.