What is your Core?

by Paula Allia PT, DHSc, MTC, OCS

by Paula Allia PT, DHSc, MTC, OCS

According to labor statistics there are at least a million back injuries per year in the work force. This is not to mention the back injuries sustained in sports or other activities of daily living.

How can one help to protect the back from injury and keep the back strong and stable?

The spine can have many types of injuries and it is common by the age of 30-40 everyone has felt some type of strain in the back. It is also not uncommon for someone else who has had a back injury to tell you just HOW to treat YOUR back pain. Beware that no two back injuries are exactly the same. We all have different body builds and postures that over time can affect your back so use caution. Also, take note of when you may experience back pain try and find the cause. Do not just treat the pain because if the cause was not addressed the pain will come back some day and it may be too late to reverse the cause. Our bodies are amazing machines but resolving the cause will avoid all of the substitutions and adjustments your body will make to try and work around your dysfunction.

One of the most important things that one can do for oneself is to develop a stable core. When I have asked people what the core is, most think that it consists of just the abdominal muscles. The core of the body actually refers to the multiple groups of muscles that are in the trunk all the way down through the pelvis and hip region. These muscles provide a stable core; this creates a platform on which our extremities can function more efficiently.

My analogy is that if you have a weak tree trunk then the branches do not survive very well. Consider this when you are thinking of the body.

It is not uncommon that when you go to use your arms that the transverse abdominus, a very important muscle in your abdominal area will contract to assist in stabilizing the spine in order to allow quality functional motions to occur in our extremities while supporting the spine.

This happens throughout the core when we function normally. The unfortunate reality is that when a low back pain patient is tested, research has found that this muscle is either delayed or not firing in the desired fashion. Thus, movement impairments occur and possible more stress is actually applied to the extremities and the actual bony structures in the spine and pelvis.

Over time, these movement impairments become what we know as normal to us. If you overuse these movement impairments then the body can break down and pain can ensue.

Excessive sitting can cause shortening of the muscles on the front of your trunk and hip allowing these muscles to tighten. The muscles that are stretched on the backside then get weak and other muscles have to fire more to compensate for these weaknesses. In addition, if a muscle then gets tight, the muscles that perform the opposite movement may have a higher resistance against it to contract and this can cause strain or overuse over time.

As mentioned previously, we have many muscles that comprise the core. The key is to strike a balance between flexibility and strength so that these muscles have the ability to work efficiently. The extensor muscles of the body if stretched for prolonged periods may develop weaknesses. Initially you may have to cognitively think about these muscles to activate them and create a mind-body connection. One may strengthen muscles isometrically first or put them in a shortened range to activate and then work into longer and more flexible ranges to strengthen through the entire range of motion.

When these muscles are strengthened they do not automatically fire when needed. These muscles need to be activated in movement patterns similar to the way we use our body.

Do not neglect your core! The stability in this region is responsible for our posturing, stability, and balance control. Here’s to your health!
For further information you may call Paula at 239.263.9348 or email paulaallia@mac.com.

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