Low back pain? Use less muscle; not more.

When it comes to low back pain, some pain sufferers feel like they are not using their core or their trunk muscles properly. There is the idea that if they were to activate their core muscles more, their low back will hurt less.

In fact, if you are a regular at pilates or weight training classes, you will often hear instructors asking their clients to use or engage their core. We have also heard trainers who ask their clients to engage their trunk more when their complains of low back pain.

The harsh truth is that using your trunk or core more is not the solution for your low back pain!

The truth about using your core muscles

low back pain, core muscles

A study published earlier this year found that people with low back pain do indeed coactivate their trunk muscles more than healthy individuals without back pain. While it may seem to make sense or sound ideal, it is not!

We do often see an increased in muscle activity around the lumbar musculature for people with back pain. This is well documented in research for years. It is generally not considered to be a good thing, and can be considered as “muscle guarding”.

Muscle guarding can be thought of as a “hypervigilant” muscle. What this means is that your muscles are not relaxed and it’s constantly held in a state where it is ready to act. This means they are working harder than usual, which leads to fatigue, which leads to even more aches and soreness for you!

What happens when you use your core muscles?

The end result of an using-your-core behaviour is not necessarily less pain but, in fact, a stiffer back back and also more fatiguing of the musculature in their bodies.

It is problematic because not only does “use your core” not help you, it causes stiffness to your low back. It can potentially makes you feel worse! Furthermore, the extra fatiguing means a more tired low back, which also, again, makes you feel worse.

To reframe it into a different context, what we are seeing is that people with pain use more resources than people without pain to perform the same task. In that sense, the movements are efficient. This inefficiency in itself often leads to chronic pain where people don’t see to recovery from their back pain.

Chiropractic treatment for lower back aches

You may be surprised to learn that we don’t offer chiropractic adjustments at our clinic. As back pain chiropractors in Singapore that are focused on delivering long term results, we offer treatments that work as short-term solutions. Spinal manipulation provides temporary relief and your pain will often come back.

If cracking your spine can lead to long-term results, why do traditional chiropractors expect their patients to continue with regular treatments for the rest of their life?

In our opinion, needing regular treatments is no different from pain killers or medication. It’s short-term results, and it doesn’t constitute true recovery. At Square One Active Recovery, a full recovery is about being able to live the life you want without having to depend on anyone. It is our responsibility as allied health providers to help you achieve that. This is why we use an empowerment-based approach. This is how we aim to make our own services redundant to our clients.

Is exercise even part of chiropractic?

chiropractic clinic singapore


Exercise is a big part of chiropractic since the very beginning. Early chiropractors used exercise to help patients achieve alignment of their spines. What we are doing at our practice is 100% part of chiropractic.

Unfortunately, many chiropractors in Singapore choose to not offer exercise as part of their treatment approach. The reason is because exercise as a treatment takes consideration longer time than just a five-minute full spine adjustment.

Furthermore, the relief from getting cracked is fairly short. Research suggests that it lasts for only 30 minutes. Many chiropractic patients will experience relief for a couple of days at most. This means they will need regular treatments. For this reason, choosing to mainly offer spinal adjustments is good for business! You have to keep coming back for more!

With the growth of science and research, we starting to learn more about body, and what actually helps with recovery. Both chiropractors and pain patients alike would have to keep up in order to achieve good outcomes. Yes, all of us have our own biases, beliefs, values. We are not denying that.

What we are saying is that, at some point, all of these have to go if we want good outcomes. We have to keep up with times. Especially if you are not getting better.

Have a think about it. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. What you need for extraordinary results is a radical change. This can start with the type of treatments you choose.


Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.

Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.

*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.