Don’t’ hurt your back raking leaves this fall


Early September my friend Bill came to visit us in San Diego. At home in Indianapolis, he owns a wellness center where he is a massage therapist and physical therapy assistant. “What is the number one reason people come to you?” I asked. “Back pain” he answered without hesitation. I wasn’t surprised based on what I have also seen with my clients. “Ok, so what besides massage do you do to help your clients keep from getting that nagging low back pain?” I countered back. Teach them to SET THEIR CORE when they do EVERYTHING.
Setting your core is not a new concept to me. If you have ever taken one of my exercise classes or exercised with me personally, you’ve heard my rant. The issue is that setting your core isn’t just important when you are exercising – it should be practiced ALL THE TIME! It helps to prevent injuries in everyday life activities from housework, to walking, to golfing to raking those fall leaves!
The technical description of setting the core is to contract the spinal stabilizer muscles, particularly the transversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle). It is the “corset muscle” of the spine and pelvis. This muscle works in partnership with muscles in your back and butt to keep your posture tall and your back safe from any strains or unwanted forces that can cause pain or injury down the road.
Now I want you to practice setting your core:
Stand up and put your hands on your belly with your fingers pointing towards your belly button. Now cough. This contraction is what I mean by setting your core.
You can also think of setting your core the same as bracing yourself for a punch in the gut. Don’t let anyone punch you though!
This contraction or bracing is what I want you to do during daily activities and exercise to prevent that nagging low back pain that might feel worse than a punch in the gut.
Congratulations if you were able to find these muscles and set your core. Now go practice doing this as you go about your day and let me know how it feels. If you’d like more ways to prevent back pain, send me an email and I will send you a PDF of Simple Core Stability Exercises ANYONE can do. You can reach me at or my website,

Happy Fall, Amy