Do you experience low back pain? Did you know that pain could be the result of having a weak core? Having a weak core can contribute to many things other than just having back pain. It can influence your breathing, your ability to balance, and your spine. The abdominal wall contains no bones for support, it must rely on strength from the multidirectional layers of muscles. There are many muscles that must work together to create that strong stable core. But before we get down to the nitty gritty I want to talk more about why we need a strong core.
First thing; which I consider to be the most important is how our core aids in our ability to breathe. We need to be able to breathe to be able to survive. The core muscles assist in forced expiration (exhale) during heavy breathing by exerting pressure on the abdominal contents. Thereby forcing the diaphragm upward. Did you know Kegels are a part of your core? They make up your pelvic floor and need to be strong just like any other muscle in the body. Exercising your Kegels is a very important thing to do. It helps prevent bladder leakage as we age, having strong Kegels can benefit pregnant women from tearing when giving birth. More common in older women, having a strong pelvic floor can help prevent a vagina prolapse (this is where your vagina can fall out of you; and yes, this can happen. So, do your Kegels!). Over the years there has been increasing body of knowledge that suggests that core stability is a key component necessary for successful performance at most activities.
As mentioned before there are no bones contained in the abdominal wall for support; it is made up of static and dynamic stabilizers. Bony configuration of joints, fibrocartilages and ligaments make up the static stabilizers and all the dynamic stabilizers are muscles. When you compare the contributions to core stability made by the dynamic structures (muscles), the contributions of the static tissues are relatively small.
When we are going to train the core musculature; development of core stability/endurance should take priority over core strengthening. Why you ask, the musculature endurance correlates with spinal stability which lowers the risk of injury. Consequently, balance and core training must all begin with exercises that emphasize on creating proper motor patterns. This is best achieved by activating the core muscles in isolation in a stable supported environment. A great example of this is planks, everyone’s favourite! There are numerus muscles that are a part of the core but there is one I want to talk to you about today. It is called Transverse Abdominis or TVA. This is the deepest muscle and its muscle fibers run horizontally, encircling the abdominal cavity. Its main purpose it to stabilize the lumbar (low back) and pelvic region. In healthy people, TVA fires in anticipation of voluntary or involuntary loading of the spine to reduce compressive forces and prevent injury. “Bracing” which involves the co-contraction of both the core and abdominal muscles creates a more ridged and wider base of support for spinal stabilization.
To create this movement and truly understand what it feels like to engage your TVA you must do the following:
1. Lay of your back and find your hip bones. Once you have found your hip bones I want you to move your fingers about an inch inwards towards your belly button.
2. Now this is best done with your eyes closed as it will take that extra attention and channel it so you know what it feels like to engage properly.
3. Next part can be a bit tricky depending on how arched your low back is. I want you to tilt your hips backwards. In other words, I want you to thrust your hips up and flatten out the low back. Make sure to exhale as you do this part of the exercise to get all core muscles to engage.
Doing this exercise along with working out will continue to stabilize your spine and core. Then hopefully with time and effort you will be able to live a long happy life without any back pain.