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Q. Are abdominal "crunch" exercises the best way to keep from having low back pain?
A. Not necessarily. Abdominal crunches do help strengthen the upper abdominal muscles. But many people with chronic back pain already have fairly strong upper abdominals. Chronic back pain has been linked to a loss of muscle quality and nerve function in the lower abdominals. These problems in the lower abdominals mean that other muscles, including the upper abdominals, must take over and do more of the lower abdominals' job.
Strengthening the upper abdominals with exercises like abdominal crunches may help low back pain feel a little better. But strengthening the lower abdominals is more important in preventing and treating low back pain. Working the lower abdominals can improve your core strength, holding your spine steady as you lift, push, and pull. Increased core strength can also help ease your pain and get you back to your daily activities.