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Getting to the Core

Core /kôr/ noun, the central or most important part of something.” Yes, by definition it is a perfect name for the core muscles of the human body. You’ve heard about the importance of having strong core muscles but do you really know how to engage them? From what I’ve seen in my practice as a Physiotherapist, I would say the majority need some assistance. ​

What are your core muscles? Your core may be described as all the muscles that are located in your torso however these muscles can be split into your inner unit stabilizers and outer unit movers. The deeper stabilizer muscles are Tranversus Abdominis, Multifidus, Diaphragm and Pelvic Floor muscles and attach directly to the spine to support its movement. The movers are the muscles that support the stabilizers and work with them to move your body. With back or pelvis pain, the stabilizer muscles are usually the culprits. Your inner unit muscles work together to stabilize your low back and pelvis before movement of your arms or legs occur. Because these muscles are used to anticipate movement, they cannot be strengthened in the traditional way of using a specific action. Ever wonder why you’ve done all the right “core exercises” that your trainer has given you and you yet still have back pain? There may be a delay or absence of muscle firing from pain, injury, surgery or preganancy. Therefore, patients may have a motor firing problem, a true weakness or both. A proper hands on assessment is required to determine where the problem lies and how the training should begin and progress. Truths about core strengthening: 1. A strong body core is important for balance, posture and back health. 2. Strong core muscles enhance physical activities/sports. 3. Athletes with higher core stability have a lower risk of injury. Myths about core strengthening: 1. Abdominal crunches are good core exercises. – False. Crunches mostly engage a mover, your Rectus Abdominis muscle and does not require any of your deeper stabilizers to fire. In addition, crunches performed incorrectly can cause injury to your spine. 2. If you are in great cardiovascular shape, you must have a strong core. – False. Core muscle strength is independent of cardiovascular status. But core muscle strength can enhance your cardiovascular activity. 3. You must do gym exercises to strengthen your core. – False. Any exercise can be a core exercise if you engage the right muscles in a coordinated fashion. Therefore, functional activities can also be used as core exercises. When should you see a Physiotherapist for assessment and training of your core muscles? It is wise to seek a consultation after a back injury, abdominal surgery and post partum. It would also be beneficial, if you have low back discomfort despite doing core exercises. If you are pain free and have good back, pelvic and hip mobility then you can certainly try the many core exercises that you can find quite easily online. Like everything else online, make sure it's from a reputable source.

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