One of the biggest buzz phrases in healthcare and rehab is “The Core”. Do you really know what
“The Core” is and how to make sure you are strengthening it to the best of your ability? Many believe
generic sit up exercises or bracing your abdomen is the key to a strong core but that is not the truth.
The core serves a very important role in both low back strength and providing a powerful base to
perform functional activities, sports, or work demands with minimal pain.
The spinal column is made up of a series of bones, called vertebrae that extend from the skull to the pelvis providing protection to the spinal cord and serving as the backbone for our musculoskeletal system. Due to the effect of gravity our spines are constantly under compressive loads that are transferred from the spine into the pelvis and legs. However, our ability to manage this load is dependent on bones, joints, muscles and nerves to ensure we move efficiently and effectively. When our muscle system is not firing appropriately there is additional stress and compression on the spinal column, which may in turn result in low back pain.
Based on the motor control theory, our nervous system coordinates muscle contraction prior to initiating movement to support the spine and counteract the forces of gravity. It is commonly thought that a strong abdomen means a strong back. While this notion has some truth to it, sit ups are certainly not the cure for back pain. The “core” consists of our diaphragm, pelvic floor, superficial and deep muscles of the abdomen, and muscles of the back and gluteal region. Retraining the timing of contraction for these muscles has been shown to be important for restoring proper function in individuals with low back pain. This helps the muscles to fire more efficiently via the nervous system, prior to training strength. As a result, the spine and intervertebral discs are well supported against compressive forces and are primed during various moving and lifting tasks that may prevent or reduce low back pain.
It’s important to ask ourselves if we understand and are able to use our core effectively while we move. If you experience persistent low back pain, perhaps this complex muscle system is an area of dysfunction. It is important to consult with a health care professional to generate an appropriate, individualized treatment program to address your pain and functional goals.