Everyone keeps talking about your core: ‘keep your core strong,’ ‘activate your core,’ ‘stabilize your core’ etc. But what does that really mean? What IS your core? How do you REALLY activate it?
Your core primarily consists of your transversus abdominus, multifidus, and pelvic floor. More secondary components of the core muscles include your rectus abdominus, obliques, gluteal muscles, hip rotators, hamstrings, quadriceps, and latissimus dorsi. The core’s primary role is to stabilize your spine and pelvis during dynamic movement, for example running, twisting, or walking. These muscles help lock everything in place and also help transfer forces so your bones don’t jar against each other.
The scientific article: The Relation Between the Transversus Abdominis Muscles, Sacroiliac Joint Mechanics, and Low Back Pain by Richardson, CA et al, is a study of the core muscles before walking or lifting. It demonstrated the activation of core muscles milliseconds BEFORE walking or lifting or moving from sit to stand is performed. By placing external electrodes over these muscles, an analysis of each muscle’s activation, force, and timing was recorded. It also compared the activation sequence in people with healthy lower back versus people with painful non-healthy lower back.
To summarize, this article found that when transferring weight from one foot to the other, picking up an object, taking a step, the transversus abdominus and pelvic floor were activated milliseconds before the rest of the secondary core muscles were activated.
The study noted that people with lower back, hip/pelvic pain, the transversus abdominus and pelvic floor muscles were activated either simultaneously or after the other core muscles, not before, as demonstrated in people without pain. In some cases the core muscles did not become activeated at all.
So how do you activate the transversus abdominus and pelvic floor? Correctly? And keep it active? A licensed physical therapist at EMH Physical Therapy teaches you how to locate and palpate the transversus abdominus, how to recruit the pelvic floor muscles and develop awareness for both muscle groups. We then teach you how to strengthen these muscles and incorporate them during movement patterns.
What are the benefits? By having a stronger core you can expect to move freely- no more catching or sharp pains. Patients have told us they can walk and run faster, have better endurance, can bend down and lift easier and our youth athletes are able to return playing sport pain free.
The core muscles are the powerhouse of your body. If you have back pain, becoming aware of your core muscles through guided physical therapy will be the key to resuming a pain free lifestyle.