NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – If you’re like the millions of people with back pain, you’ve probably heard that you should do more core muscle exercises.

But as CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, new research shows having six-pack abs might not be the answer.

Before she became a physical therapist, Kayla Borchers was a competitive runner. Even though she worked her core, she had consistent low back pain.

“It felt just like muscle tension and just a dull ache,” she said.

It’s a common complaint among runners, not to mention couch potatoes. So to find the cause, a team at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center examined the muscles that runners use during running.

Using motion detection technology and force-measuring floor plates, experts built joint and bone simulations that allowed them to do virtual strength manipulations of different muscles.

“What if you turned off certain muscles, so they were weak, fatigued, not well conditioned? What does that change then? What other muscles would have to take up the slack? And what are the effects of that?” wondered Dr. Ajit Chaudhari.

The researchers found that back pain is commonly caused by weak deep core muscles that are used to stabilize the spine. They’re different than surface muscles, like abs, that many people typically focus on.

“If those deep core muscles are not contributing, then that’s increasing, or likely to increase, the loads on your spine in a way that may lead to low back pain,” Chaudhari said.

He says to skip the sit-ups and opt for Pilates-type exercises that force you to hold your body in place. Things like planks, especially on unstable surfaces, strengthen those deep core muscles that will reduce back pain.

Experts say there is a lot of misinformation out there on the best way to strengthen your core. Anything with a large range of motion is probably just working those beach muscles and won’t strengthen the deep core.