Sports and Spinal Physio LTD
24 Tallon Road
CM13 1TE

The core – problems with stability and strength

The core – problems with stability and strength

The ‘CORE’ is the deep muscle system that stabilises the spine and pelvis. The muscles that make up the CORE are not just the ‘lower abominals’, but a complex group of postural muscles (including the pelvic floor, transversus abdominus, diaphragm, psoas and multifidus) that work together in a cylinder fashion, the. They act like a corset, controlling the person’s posture as well as allowing other powerful and larger global ‘mobiliser’ muscles to effectively move the body during walking and normal daily movement, as well and increase stability and control as needed in sport and exercise.

Pain and Injury affects the CORE

Many of our patients have trouble ‘switching on’ their CORE muscles due to previous back pain, pregnancy, post-child birth or sports injuries. The inner deeper muscles tend to ‘turn off’ to a degree because of the pain or injury and usually struggle to properly ‘turn back on’ for a long period of time. This leads to ongoing pain or other problems developing. As a result the body compensates by either;

1) Increasing the workload onto the large lower back ‘mobiliser (global)’ muscles causing back muscle fatigue and spasm.

2) The weakness developed in the core over time creates the person to adopt a poor pelvic and lower back posture. This means other ‘global’ abdominal, back and hip muscles tend to tighten up to stabilise which in turn creates secondary injuries and prevents the person to get the right ‘CORE’ muscles working again!

Problems with Training the CORE

It is very common today to find people doing ‘CORE’ exercises, and a lot of the time this helps with strength, stability and reducing back pain. However there are a large number of people who are not doing it correctly:

1) The person has poor activation or awareness of what muscles to use, simply because the pain or injury has reduced the ability to control the right muscles. This prevents the person progression from the start.

2) Some people also attempt CORE exercises that are too advanced for them (like balancing on a Swiss ball). They body compensates and uses too many abdominal, back and hip muscles to stabilise the spine.

What to do?

If you have had lower back pain, recent pregnancy, child birth, or sports injuries, and are having problems with training your CORE (or not doing any CORE training), you should seek advice from your Physiotherapist as soon as possible. They will be able to correct your technique and get you on a path of suitable progression of CORE Training for the level you are at.

Whilst on the subject of core stability here is an introductory CORE exercise for the Transversus Abdominus (TrA) muscle:

Lie on your back with your knees at 90 degrees and feet comfortably on the floor and slightly apart. Place your fingers about 1 cm in and down from the top of your pelvic bones – you will feel the TrA contract when you turn it on. Breath out and slowly draw your lower tummy in, being careful not to over-contract the upper abdominals (remember this is a very subtle exercise). It often helps to visualise pulling the pointy part of your pelvis bones (just above your fingers) towards each other. If done correctly you will feel a slight tension under your fingers. Then attempt to keep the TA muscle active under your finger whilst breathing normally for at least 10 seconds at a time – it may take some fine tuning but this is an excellent beginning exercise. Once you have this mastered try doing the same thing in different positions.

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