Core Series: Part II
By: Cathey Bowling, DPT – SUMMIT Claremore Clinic
If all of this core discussion so far has you thinking you need to start a core program today, then you are not alone. The majority of people could use a “tune up.”
- Your core is the center to almost everything you do throughout your day. Whether you are sitting at work, playing baseball, seven months pregnant, running a marathon, or emptying the dishwasher, your core is functioning. If there is weakness, asymmetry, or imbalance, then abnormal patterns will occur. Core strength can work to reduce low back pain, improve postural imbalances, and improve athletic performance.
- A healthy back makes a happy person. Low back pain can be debilitating and can affect 4 out of 5 Americans. It is also the second most common reason patients seek medical attention. Low back pain can occur due to strain, injury, overuse, repetitive movements such as bending, twisting, and lifting, or even too much sitting at a desk. Chronic low back pain is often associated with core weakness/instability. Stabilization exercise is considered a major component of treatment and effective in reducing long term pain, along with restoring overall daily function.
- Pregnancy is the ultimate strain on the body. 50-70% of women who are pregnant experience low back pain for many reasons including weight gain, postural changes, hormonal changes, and change of the body’s center of gravity. This can increase the amount of force the muscles must generate everyday causing women to have postural changes. Exercise can improve muscle strength/endurance, especially in the hips, back and abdomen. Improving these areas can prepare the body for the physically demanding event of delivering a baby. Finally, therapeutic exercise during pregnancy can assist the recovery after the delivery. Physical therapy can intervene to reduce strain, creating a more positive experience.
- Where do I start?… It is first important to learn to isolate your core muscles in your treatment. The transversus abdominus “TA” creates a “corset-like” structure as it is contracted. A common therapy technique in individuals with low back pain/weakness is to provide neuromuscular education how to first fire the TA. Your deep abdominal muscle can be contracted by bringing the belly button up and in toward the spine, or drawing in the abdominals. Normal breathing is important to maintain throughout the muscle contraction. It is important to maintain a correct abdominal contraction when progressing this exercise by adding arm and leg exercises.
- Everyday activities. Since we do not perform all of our daily activities lying on our backs, it is important to understand how to incorporate core strengthening in more functional ways. Turning to look behind you while driving, bending over to put on your socks and shoes, bathing, or gardening… these are just a few routine activities, we perform every day, not in neutral positions, that rely on your core. Although your core may go unnoticed, these activities can become painful, or even difficult if your core didn’t exist. Part III will further explain how to strengthen in multi planes and dynamically.
- Part 3… Many injuries, including sports related, are caused from a weak core. Doing a few simple exercises in order to further strengthen the core can keep the entire body working in symmetry. Further core discussion to be posted, focusing on the athletic population!