Friday, 18 July 2014

What is Core Stability? Reduce Lower Back Pain & Injuries in Running

There are many opinions on this subject, put simply it can be described as the activation of deep intrinsic muscles that attach directly to the spine providing it with immediate stability in turn preventing unwanted movement of the vertebrae. 

Known as 'local' muscles due to their proximity to the spine 'the core stability' muscles are switched on continuously without any conscious thought and are postural in nature (work for long periods without fatigue). They provide an effective foundation for the larger more superficial muscles (also known as 'global') muscles to produce an effective force & to pull from when you move. 

Imagine having a house with no foundations or a tent with no guide ropes, eventually (not immediately) it will crumble then fail, this is the inevitable outcome of being unable to recruit your core. The superficial 'global' mobilising muscles including the hamstrings, hip flexors, lats and glutes are easy to see which is why people tend to focus on over exercising them.

It is the lesser known muscles we ignore, the two main core stabilizers listed below

Transverse Abdominus

Located at the front of the body, surrounds the trunk like clingfilm pulling the thoroco-lumbar & dorsal fascia taut like a sail to increase pressure & stability around the trunk


A pair of muscles which scale the entire spine helping to keep it nice & tall, preventing rounding of the back & helping to resist the lure of gravity. These Muscles are like two inner tubes running vertically up the spine, upon contraction they inflate reducing any remaining slack with the TVA 'corset'


TVA & Multifidus are recruited unconsciously within healthy subjects prior to the movement of the upper or lower limbs, in most cases 130 Milli seconds before you even think about producing movement. In contrast 67% of Back pain sufferers are unable to unconsciously pre-activate the TVA and Multifidi in turn exposing their spines to huge rotational excessive forces and placing an extra 47% more load through the 5th Lumbar vertebrae

Poor Activation
If we are unable to activate these core muscles then we use the larger global muscles to not only move our bodies, but also stabilize the spine.
The big muscles tire out through accumulation of lactic acid/waste build up causing constant pain cycles (generally towards the latter part of the day as they fatigue).
You will start to suffer injuries to muscle tissue and joints including lower back, hip and knees.

The core muscles are arguably the most important yet because we cannot see them it is difficult to understand what must be done to recruit them effectively.

If you suffer from any chronic long term issues such as hip, knee, ankle or lower back pain this is an area you need to improve in- you would have to focus in the short term on developing mobility through the spine, flexibility & fascial release in combination with core activation drills using specialized equipment such as a Pressure Biofeedback Unit.

I get frustrated as a clinician when I see post-natal patients or back pain sufferers conducting advanced movements like planks and sit ups far to soon (some poor boot camps), leading to recruitment of the wrong muscles causing eventual injury.

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