By Ashley Theobald, DPT

Back pain, also termed lumbago, affects approximately 139 per 100,000 people each year in the United States, and results in lost work time (second leading cause) and hospitalization.  A recent study by Katz found that back pain results in $100-$200 billion dollars in direct and indirect healthcare costs.  Risk factors for back pain include:  heavy lifting (items greater than 25 kg with greater than 25 lifts/day), cigarette smoking, extreme height, and morbid obesity.  

With such a high incidence in the general population, what can be done to prevent back pain and its associated costs? Fortunately, evidences has supported the use of motor control exercises for the deep stabilizing muscles of the spine, a.k.a. learning to control the trunk muscles during daily functional activities.  These muscles include the lumbar multifidus, transversus abdominus, and obliquus internus abdominus.  A systematic review has shown that exercises prove to be a better option in reducing back pain for both short, intermediate, and long-term follow up compared to minimal intervention.

To help you to improve your spine health, be sure to include this 10-minute lumbar stabilization workout into your schedule 3-7 days per week!

10-Minute Lumbar Stabilization Workout

Perform 10 repetitions of each exercise throughout your day! (Up to 10 times per day)

Drawing in maneuver (Transversus Abdominus)

Draw the belly button upward and in as if pulling it toward your spine (basically just suck it all in!). Hold 10 seconds each time.
Progression: Perform this movement in a seated position.
Advanced: perform this movement while performing functional activities.

Multifidus Reach

(A resistance band is needed)

Perform with slight tension on the resistance band.
Begin with feet hip width apart and hands near you at chest level.
Perform drawing in maneuver and reach forward with both hands until arms are straight.
Return to start position while maintaining drawing in maneuver

Internal oblique


Lie on your side on either a roller or rolled up towels.
Make sure that your arms are down.
Bring the body up into a crunch leaning on the bottom arm for support.


If back pain is a recurrent issue for you, please contact your physician before beginning this program.

More about back pain can be found in this excellent e-book.

Waterman BR, Belmont PJ Jr, Schoenfeld AJ. Low back pain in the United States: incidence and risk factors for presentation in the emergency setting. Spine J 2012;12:63-70. Katz JN. Lumbar disc disorders and low-back pain: socioeconomic factors and consequences. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2006;88(Suppl 2):21-4. Coenen P, Gouttebarge V, van der Burght AS, van Dieën JH, Frings-Dresen MH, van der Beek AJ, Burdorf A. The effect of lifting during work on low back pain: a health impact assessment based on a meta-analysis. Occup Environ Med. 2014 Aug 27. pii: oemed-2014-102346. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2014-102346. [Epub ahead of print] Review. O’Sullivan PB, Phyty GD, Twomey LT, et al. Evaluation of specific stabilizing exercise in the treatment of chronic low back pain with radiologic diagnosis of spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. Spine. 1997;22:2959–2967. Macedo LG, Maher CG, Latimer J, McAuley JH. Motor control exercise for persistent, nonspecific low back pain: a systematic review. Phys Ther. 2009 Jan;89(1):9-25. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20080103. Epub 2008 Dec 4. Review. Richardson C, Jull G. Muscle control-pain control. What exercises would you prescribe? Manual Therapy 1995;1:2- 10. FREE Online Home Exercise Program for Rehab Professionals – HEP Rehab Pros 2010. Available at: