If you’ve ever been to a gym class you’ve probably heard an instructor telling everyone to “activate their core”. Chances are if you’ve had back pain someone has vaguely remarked that better core strength will be the cure-all for your pain. As with everything, this is only half of the story.
What Is Your Core?
In basic anatomy terms you “core” can be broken up into two groups. The superficial movement group, and the deeper stability group. Muscles like your 6 pack and obliques run from your ribs down to your hips and create large movements in your trunk, as well as assisting instability.
Further to this are much smaller muscles that run between each vertebrae, and one that runs around your abdomen like a corset. These muscles work best to support the back during movement.
What Happens After An Injury?
What we tend to find is after an injury to the back these muscles will spasm to try and prevent any movement that might further aggravate your pain. This is a very smart thing for the body to do for the short term, but issues can arise if that tightness doesn’t settle at the same rate as your injury.
In this instance, you are left with hyper-vigilant muscles that won’t allow you to move easily through the range. This means simple movements like bending over can often lead to reaggravations.
How Your Physio Can Help You
Your Physio will work with you in a hands-on fashion to assist in normalising the muscle tightness. The eventual goal will be to use exercises to regain full and normal function. Your Physio can use real-time ultrasound to assess how and when you use your core muscles during basic movements.
In this case, the focus is not on how to activate your core, but actually how to relax those superficial movement abdominals. Strengthening exercises can be added into your exercise regime once you have a better awareness of relaxing your back muscles.
We often find that weakness through the hips, legs and even shoulder blades can mean the back overworks during normal movements. For this reason, exercise for low back pain is often most effective when it targets all areas of the body.
If any of this resonates with you, please don’t hesitate to ask your Physio. how they are able to further assist you. We look forward to seeing you soon!
This blog was written by Physio Erin Cruse.