What is core stability?
Your core stability muscles are the deep trunk muscles: Transversus abdominis (deepest layer of stomach muscle), multifidus (deep back muscles), and your pelvic floor (muscles at the base of the pelvis which support the bladder, uterus and bowel). These muscles are key to the active support of the lumbar spine. When they contract, they all work together to form a protective corset for the lower back. Whenever a person moves (e.g. to lift something or shift position) these core muscles pre-empt the movement and will tense first, this tension is made unconsciously.
Core stability is an essential component for the maintenance of upright posture and for stability with movement or lifting. Without core stability the lower back is less supported from within, and injuries can be sustained.
What can go wrong?
When you have back pain these core stability muscles may automatically switch off, so your protective corset is no longer working. People often then splint their spines with their diaphragm bracing instead which can overload the pelvic floor or alter their thoracic mobility.
How will retraining core stability muscles help?
- It can prevent or reduce recurrence of back pain
- It can help maintain good posture
- It helps to reduce excessive uncontrolled movement of the lower back joints, which could injure them
- It can help to improve power in the arm and leg muscles as you have a more stable base to work from
How do I activate my core stability muscles?
- Start by lying on your back with both knees bent up.
- Try to do some relaxed breaths, don’t tense your abdomen.
- Now on a breath out, try to slowly and gently draw your belly button in towards your spine. You should feel a very mild tension or tightening in the lower abdomen – it is NOT a strong or fast contraction. Hold this contraction and keep breathing for 4-5 breaths. Then relax.
- If the abdominal contraction is too difficult, try thinking about your pelvic floor: On a breath out, slowly and gently draw up your pelvic floor, as though you were trying to stop the flow of urine while going to the toilet (for men, think of trying to lift the testicles up). Hold this contraction while you keep breathing for 4-5 breaths.
- You should not get any movement in your lower back or pelvis, nor should you get any pain with this exercise.
- You can palpate (or feel) the contraction with your fingertips placed gently inside the bony prominences of your hips. As you contract you should feel a slight drawing in (no bulging), as you relax you should feel the contraction melting away.
At Burleigh Heads and Broadbeach Physiotherapy Centres we can help:
- Assess the quality of your core muscle control
- Show you how to isolate the core stability muscles
- Devise an individualised core stability exercise program – this may involve floor exercises, swissball or band exercises depending on your ability
- Offer individualised clinical pilates classes
Gold Coast Physiotherapy – Burleigh Heads and Broadbeach Physiotherapy Centres 07 5535 5218