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    1635 Asheville Hwy.
    Hendersonville, NC 28791

Getting To The Core Of The Problem 

If you’ve been experiencing back pain it’s very likely you’ve been told that you need core strengthening in order to “stabilize” your spine. You may have thought to yourself… “I guess that means I should do a lot of sit-ups to strengthen my abs…. but how can I do them when my back hurts so much?”

The good news is: you don’t have to do sit-ups to strengthen your CORE. You do need to know what and where your core is, what to do to strengthen it, and how a strong core is going to relieve and prevent your back pain.

Something that may surprise you is that of your four abdominal muscles, the “six pack” muscle, your rectus abdominus, the one you use to do crunches, is not a true “CORE” muscle. The reason is that the rectus runs vertically from the lower part of your breastbone straight down to your pubic bone and when it contracts it curls your spine. That’s why it’s good for getting you up from lying down but, since it doesn’t attach to your spine, it’s not good at holding, supporting, or stabilizing your spine.

Two other abdominal muscles (the Internal oblique and the External oblique), run diagonally from your ribs to your pelvis. Since they are attached to your ribs they can twist or side-bend your rib cage along with curling your spine. That’s why they are good for turning over and getting out of bed. Again, since they do not attach to your spine, they can’t stabilize it.

Finally, we come to the Transverse abdominis . It is the deepest of the abdominal muscles, wrapping horizontally around your body, with attachments from your spine to your pelvis. And, yes…the Transverse abdominis, which looks and functions like a built in muscular back brace, supports and stabilizes your spine because it attaches to it. Using the Transverse abdominis to pull your belly in, you support and stabilize your spine relieving your back muscles of stress and strain, reducing pain and increasing function.

Knowing what and where your core is, you will now be able to strengthen it.

Strengthening your core is not difficult but it does take some mental concentration especially at first. Eventually, with repetition, engaging your core becomes automatic.

Solution? activate your Transverses abdominus muscle, by drawing your bellybutton up and back towards your spine without producing any movement of your spine or pelvis. You can do this in any position: standing, sitting, lying on your back or side. You’ll just be flattening your stomach. Train yourself to maintain your core contraction and still be able to breathe. If you’re holding your breath or your body is stiffening, you are overdoing it. You‘ll know that you’re doing this correctly and that your core is becoming stronger because your back will hurt less.

A good time to practice core strengthening is when you’re sitting in your car in traffic. Just hold in your bellybutton. Don’t contract and release it repeatedly: just keep it held in and remember to breathe. See if you can hold your belly in all the way to your destination.

At Pisgah Physical Therapy our Physical Therapists and Support Staff can instruct you in core strengthening and good body mechanics and can provide hands-on manual therapy if needed. We can help you gain maximum strength of your CORE for the strongest possible support of your spine.