Crunches for Core Strength: More Harm than Good?

Low back pain is arguably one of the most common complaints that chiropractors treat throughout their career. Low back pain accounts for some of the greatest incidence levels of used sick days in the corporate world. Those especially bound to their desk during the work week often fall victim to these debilitating aches and pains. Even the most active of individuals may be susceptible to injury and back pain, especially if they find themselves relying solely on crunches to ‘strengthen their core’.



Crunches are outdated, and in some cases, can actually make you more vulnerable to low back injuries, such as disc bulges and herniations. So let’s take a minute to review our anatomy. There is more to a strong core than the chiseled abs, and cut obliques. Even if you can proudly show off that toned tummy, it doesn’t mean you are safe from injury. In fact, there are approximately 16 muscle groups when we look at both the left and the right side,  which help to make up the primary support system of your torso. This means that if you are relying on crunches to keep you strong and pain free, you’re missing many pieces of the puzzle.


Imagine your “core “ as a rectangle box, with your spine and organs primarily making up the contents. The front of your torso is made up of  a variety of muscles, starting with your transverse abdominis, or your “deep core”.  The psoas (hip flexor) muscles also penetrates deep into the core, connecting your femur to the lumbar spine. Also included in the anterior core are your internal and external obliques (which arguably can also be included in your lateral core), leaving us with our rectus abdominis (aka our “abs”). 


The lateral core consists largely of our quadratus lumborum, or QLs for short. As previously described, internal and external oblique’s could also fit into this subsystem. Posterior core muscles primarily consists of the multifidi and erector spinae which connect to the spine/vertebral segments directly. Lastly, the diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles help to establish the top and bottom of the torso respectively.


Remember the days of group assignments where the work was supposed to be divided up equally, with everyone contributing in order to the get the job completed? Now can you imagine how you would feel if everyone else went on vacation, expecting you to pick up the slack and still complete the task at hand? You’d probably be irritated, upset, and resistant to the change made by your teammates.  This is how the body become injured- when we rely too much on one core muscle to protect us from pain.

All of these muscles surrounding our torso must work in conjunction with one another, allowing force to be absorbed equally through the active muscular tissues. This also prevents us from having to rely on the boney structures, joints, and ligaments of the spine to absorb all of the forces that occur during our daily activities, which may cause arthritis and degenerative joint disease.

For more insight on injury prevention, and recommended exercises tailored to your movement requirements and activity goals, come visit us at Boulder Sports Chiropractic and get evaluated.

Looking to spice up your stability/mobility program?- check out our instagram for exercises that you can complete at home!

At Boulder Sports Chiropractic we use functional movement screening, muscle testing to find out exactly what is needed to get you back to 100% as quickly as possible. We tailor your treatment plan specifically to you using tools like Dry Needling, Active Release Technique (ART), Graston Technique, and Physical Therapy to fix the source of the pain, not just the symptoms.

Call us today for an appointment 303-444-5105