What a strong core is and why does it matter?
Abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles, when working together, form a strong core. Abdominal muscles (layered from the surface inward) are the Rectus Abdominus, the internal and external Obliques, and then the Transversus Abdominus. Each of these abdominal muscles function differently: sit ups primarily work the Rectus muscle and give you a ‘six-pack’, the Oblique muscles allow you to twist and rotate, and the Transversus muscle is the deepest one and hardest to fire. When the Transversus and pelvic floor muscles fire together, you are better able to withstand exertion without hurting your back.
If the Transversus does not stabilize for exertion (push/pull, lift/lower, carry), then you are likely to sustain an injury. Learning to draw the Transversus in and gently draw up on the pelvic floor together is the key to stabilizing the core. If you are bearing down on your pelvic floor as you push or pull, then you are not using your core, and your abs will not protect you.
Key tips for firing the core muscles:
1. Draw the belly in as you exert: if your belly is bulging, or pushing out, then you are not protecting your back.
2. Draw up the pelvic floor muscles (just slightly) as your belly draws in. Use these muscles to counter the down push that is created when your belly muscles pull in.
3. Do not arch or round your back. Maintain a neutral position for all exertion. Learn to stabilize in a midrange position as you squat, lift, bend, or carry.
Tips to reduce risk for lower back injuries:
1. Keep yourself more fit to help reduce your risk, with a regular exercise program and activities.
2. Learn correct body posture and body mechanics to avoid injury while sitting, pushing, pulling, lifting, lowering, etc.
How can Physical Therapy help?
If you’ve already sustained an injury, your body is likely compensating with different movement patterns. When you’re in pain, your body develops new and less efficient ways to move in an attempt to avoid pain. When the pain resolves, the new movement patterns do not: you are left with your less efficient ways of moving. You need to re-learn the more efficient movement patterns, as well as make sure that everything (muscles, joints, fascia) is able to move freely.
Physical therapy can also teach you how to fire the right muscles efficiently to activate your core,.
Call today to learn how physical therapy can help you feel better and get stronger.