Core stability refers to the ability to stabilize our spine and body during movement, in particular the bodily region bounded by the diaphragm, abdominal wall corset and the pelvic floor.
It is the action of these three groups of muscles that, when coordinated together, stabilize our spine and pelvis providing pain-free and fluid movement.
Upon inhalation our diaphragm drops down and out, compressing our abdominal contents and increasing intra-abdominal pressure. By increasing the intra-abdominal pressure, the act of breathing through movement helps to create stabilization for the spine and pelvis. For this reason it is just as important to co-ordinate our breathing with any lifting activity as it is to lift with proper biomechanics or posture.
The Abdominal Wall Corset
The abdominal wall corset consists of our transverses abdominus and the internal and external oblique muscles. Our transverses abdominus attaches to a fascial layer of connective tissue which further attaches to our spine. The fascial sheath is known as the thoraco-lumbar fascia which, when tensed upon contraction of our abdominal wall corset, provides further stability to our spine by counteracting compressive and shearing forces.
The Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor, often referred to as our pelvic diaphragm, consists of a group of muscles that when contracted push up against our abdominal contents in reverse to the action of our diaphragm which pushes down.
This not only supports our internal organs such as our bladder and bowels, but also further creates an increase in intra-abdominal pressure which increases the stability of our spine.
Core Stability in Practice
An integrative model for optimizing core-stability training is achieved through coordinating breathing with abdominal wall contraction and pelvic floor contraction:
Our core never acts independently of any other movement. That is, whenever we move from one position to another or in order to lift or carry something, our core region automatically tenses to brace our spine. This ‘tensing’ is a good thing and is unconscious, which means that prior to even moving our limbs the musculature that protects our spine is called into action. This holds true even in those with chronic back. Recent studies have demonstrated that the difference with those who have back pain and those who do not is a micro-second delay. This delay is enough to cause pain and harm to structures that protect our back. The primary aim of core-stability training in the initial stages is to regain the proper timing and reduce the delay, thereby reducing pain and damage to the structures that hold our back in tact.
With increasing load and complex movements, degeneration to the spine can accelerate to the point where the body then chronically tenses other “non-core” muscles to limit the potentially dangerous movement. This tensing results in the body becoming too stiff to move through our full range. A properly trained core therefore allows the body to maintain optimal mobility as well.
The optimal use of our core musculature is also needed to transfer force and power from the ground across the body in any movement. Core stability is essential for maintaining a strong upright posture and for movements that require extra efforts such as lifting and carrying objects. Without core stability our back is vulnerable to these extra forces causing a potential increase in degeneration to structures holding our low back together.
A lack of core stability can result in chronic low back pain, poor posture and fatigue.
A proper core-stability routine integrates all three of these muscle groups and functions to ensure that our spine and pelvis are truly capable of protecting itself against external forces.
In Vancouver call (604) 568-1337 to book an appointment with a physiotherapist at Cross Roads Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy for your Core assessment and training needs .