Unless you’re either very, very young or live on a remote desert island without TV, radio, Internet or print media, you’ve probably heard the term “core strength” before. Serious athletes and exercise enthusiasts talk about it at the fitness center, and so do their coaches and trainers. But did you know that chiropractors and physical therapists talk about it too? So what exactly is core strength and why do some kinds of healthcare professionals care about it so much?
As you might guess, chiropractic physicians have a particular interest in the musculoskeletal system, the complex structure of bones, muscles and connective tissues that support the body’s frame and allow it to move. We’ve recognized for a very long time that the core muscles play a major role in stabilizing this frame and promoting correct posture when the body is at rest or in motion. In particular, strong core muscles contribute to a healthy back by holding the spine in proper alignment, supporting a portion of the body’s weight and absorbing many of the stresses and impacts we all experience when we walk and run. When your core muscles are doing their job effectively, your spine is protected. You can think of this as the “strong core-healthy back connection.” Let’s talk about it in more detail…
In human beings, the majority of movement originates from the lower part of the torso (the lumbar spine and abdomen). This is the part of the body that tenses first and keeps the body balanced during running, lifting, twisting and other normal day-to-day movements. Strength in this region is a basic building block from which to develop power in other areas of the body and (as we mentioned earlier) is fundamental to maintaining good posture and spinal alignment.
Anatomically speaking, the core region of the body consists of the lower back, abdomen, pelvis and diaphragm. The main muscle groups include the transversus abdominus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis and erector spinae. It is these muscles that often need strengthening due to the fact that on a daily basis most of us are far less active than our ancestors who worked at more physically demanding jobs.
Instructors across a wide variety of athletic and exercise disciplines have known about the importance of core strength for a long time. Yoga and Pilates teachers, martial artists and qi gong practitioners all move from the same center of gravity and balance in the core region and view this area as the nexus of human power and energy. They stress the importance of strengthening the core through breathing exercises and meditation as well as physical movement. Since the core region of the body contains the diaphragm, ease of breathing is both a sign and result of good core strength. Back pain, on the other hand, may well be a sign that core strength needs to be improved.
For those who practice sports, proper alignment is particularly important to prevent injuries during physical exertion. If the core muscles are not strong enough to support the spine during movement, then other muscle groups will be used to perform the action with a much greater risk of damage. The rest of us also need to be conscious of our core strength since we all engage in strenuous action at various points in our lives (lifting boxes, running to catch a bus, playfully swinging a child, etc.).
While chiropractors are always willing to help patients in need of treatment, the ultimate goal of chiropractic care is for everyone to have the best possible spinal health. Good core strength definitely contributes to that, whether you are otherwise healthy or have an ongoing postural problem. If you want to improve your spinal health and posture and reduce your chance of injury, working on core strength through a balanced program of exercise is a very good—and very inexpensive—way of going about it.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can improve the strong core-healthy back connection, call or visit our office today! We’re always happy to help!