Why is your core the core of treating your back?
Low back pain at our Physiotherapy Clinic in Oakville is a universal human experience, everyone has it at some point. If you’ve been treated for some type of low back issue before, one of the first things your therapist probably gave you (or should have!) is a core strengthening program. But why is it so important? Let our Oakville Physiotherapy team tell you why!
A big part of keeping your spine healthy is keeping it stable. The Oakville Physiotherapists feel that if your spine isn’t stable, uneven wear and tear of the joint surfaces and discs will occur, leading to inflammation and pain. Your body will also lay down scar tissue in an attempt to protect itself, decreasing your mobility.
When we’re talking about stability (of any body part!) we can break it down into three categories: passive stability, active stability, and the central nervous system.
To put it simply this is how the bones fit together, the ligaments that surround the joints, or connect one bone to another, and for the spine the discs as well.
This comes from your muscles! When the muscles surrounding a joint contract they create tension, allowing the joint to move through its range of motion, while maintaining good contact between the joint surfaces, decreasing undesired wear and tear.
The central nervous system
The hub of everything! With input from the passive system, your brain tells your muscles when to contract, with how much force, and for how long by sending a message to the muscles via the nerves.
Your spine is a stacked column of vertebrae connected by the passive stabilizers. The way the vertebrae are connected allow you to flex and extend, sidebend, and rotate. However, to allow these movements during normal daily activity your spine must support forces that can equal more than twice your body weight! With lifting that can be much more! Even just standing still, the forces subjected on the spine are too great for the passive system to handle on their own. This is where your active system comes in, and for your back that primarily means your core! And by core, we don’t mean the six pack muscle you’ll get from doing endless crunches, we mean the deeper stabilizing muscles like the transverse abdominis, obliques, and multifidus. The best way to teach these guys how to turn back on is with hollowing and bracing. The hollow and brace is the foundation you want to achieve before attempting more advanced core exercises.
Do you feel like you have a super strong core? Can you hold a plank for hours? Well there may be two problems with this. One, your body is great at compensating and may be cheating by using different muscles to maintain that plank position, while letting your core slack off. So make sure you remember to go through the steps of hollowing and bracing to properly engage your core before you start that hour long plank. Two, maybe you do have a super strong core but if your brain isn’t telling it to engage at the proper times you may be performing your daily activities with less than ideal stability! The best thing to do is start by picking a list of 5 cues that happen frequently in your day to day life and each time one comes up, perform your hollow and brace, holding the contraction for 10-15 seconds. For example, each time you check your phone, get stopped at a street light, go to sit in a chair, turn that core back on! They say it takes 10 000 repetitions to make a habit… While it may not take that long, with each repetition your brain will start to take the hint and this will change from a conscious activity to a subconscious one, where you brain will know to engage your core without you even having to think about it!
Don’t know what we’re talking about with the hollow and brace? Stay tuned! Our next blog post will teach you the basics of core activation!