Getting to the Core of Core strengthening
June 22, 2015 at 12:44 PM
Did we ever have it? Yes! Core strength is not something foreign that has to be trained to each and every one of us. Core strength is basically the body’s ability to stabilise the trunk and spine with muscles while moving in any direction. We all have or have had some level of it but some of us have got into bad habits (like sustained postures at work) or have had injuries that cause these muscles to weaken.
Which muscles make up our ‘core’?
There are essentially 2 groups of muscles that form the ‘core’.
First there are the local stabilisers – these are the deepest layer of muscles that attached segmentally to the spine and pelvis and are designed to work gently in the background. They activate first to get your body ready for movement. Muscles that make up the local stabilisers group include transversus abdominis, deep multifidus, the diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles
The other group of muscles in your ‘core’ are the global stabilisers. These are the bigger guys such as the gluteals, obliques, rectus abdominus and quadratus lumborum that form a more superficial layer around your trunk. Their job is to ‘respond and move’ you rather than ‘anticipate and stabilise’ you like the local muscles above.
How do they relate to my lower back pain?
Usually the local stabilisers re working away automatically, we don’t need to think about turning them on but in the presence of pain or trauma such as abdominal or spinal surgery these muscles become inhibited c
ausing them to weaken and their timing to become delayed. Your body compensates the best it can and recruits the bigger global muscles more. This can result in altered movement patterns and over time can cause more stress on structures such as spinal joints and ligaments.
What can you do?
The important thing to remember after any back pain is that you need to regain local stability before you can improve your global stability. Unfortunately going straight back in to doing crunches to strengthen your core after injury is unlikely to be helpful. Knowing how to activate those smaller local stabilisers correctly is difficult which is why seeing a Physiotherapist who can guide you with the correct exercises is important. The Physiotherapist’s job is to assess how you are moving and what compensations you might be making so they can devise a core stability programme that is individualised to your specific problems and retrains all these muscles the right muscles in the right way.