Breathing to Fix Chronic Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain will affect 60-80% of all adults during their lifespan, with up to 40% of these people experiencing a yearly episode. Traditionally treatment for lower back pain has focussed on ‘core stability’, a concept targeting increased muscular contraction of the large muscle groups around the lower torso such as: transverse abdominus, and multifidus. The concept of core activation has many sufferers of lower back pain moving with their core permanently braced, fighting the natural movement of the spine and muscles.

Research indicates that rather than a one size fits all concept to lower back pain and manual handling, suffers should be assessed using direction of movement and proximity of symptoms (if movement brings the pain closer to the spine it is considered good movement). A simple assessment by an Exercise Physiologist can assess the movement patterns that would be most beneficial in reducing your lower back pain. In addition to identifying the movements that sufferers experience the most difficulty with the process also involves establishing the source of your lower back pain, to provide education and simple tools to reduce the risk of future exacerbations.

So, what does all this have to do with breathing? When the core muscles are constantly activated the lower abdomen has a reduced ability to move freely. When you take a deep breath all of the structures of the upper torso move freely often resulting in increased extension of the upper spine, whilst the lower spine remains ridged. Through an increased focus on breathing using your diaphragm and relaxing the abdominal muscles the lower spine is able to move freely. This movement in turn allows bending forward in a relaxed state progressing toward movements allowing lower back pain sufferers to simply bend forward to pick objects up off the floor, a concept normally resulting pain and obscure movement patterns.

The steps of learning to move freely again without fear of lower back pain are simple. Forget everything you know and what you consider to be good posture, learn to relax and then start to rebuild confidence in movement, lifting, and simple daily tasks. Want some guidance through this process? The team at Absolute Balance can help you to regain your confidence in movement through exercise, book-in to see a team member specialising in lower back pain at our Como clinic.

Ingrid Hand

Exercise Rehabilitation Manager (ESSAM AEP)



Lederman, E. 2010. “The fall of the postural-structural-biomechanical model in manual and physical therapies: exemplified by lower back pain” CPDO Online Journal. 1-14.

Waddell, G. & Burton, A.K. 2001. “Occupational health guidelines for the management of low back pain at work : evidence review” Occupational Medicine. 51 (2) 124-135.