Many people have heard the phrase “stabilize your core!” while working out, but what does this really mean? What does core stabilization entail? Many research articles describe it as a way of recruiting deeper muscles around our “core,” which basically consist of our spine, pelvis and hips, to make movements of limbs more efficient. The core muscle involved can be pictured as a box surrounding our spine with the gluteals and multifidi muscles in the back, abdominals in the front, diaphragm up top, and pelvic floor muscles below. When efficiently activated, these muscles provide “proximal stability for distal mobility,” meaning we are able to perform movements with our limbs more efficiently with a stronger, more stable foundation: our core.
There are many ways of strengthening ones core, but studies have found abdominal bracing to be the most efficient in increasing spinal stiffness for stability. Consequently, here at OSR, we in our Physical Therapy department choose to teach core activation through abdominal bracing. Simply put, abdominal bracing consists of contracting all layers of our abdominals simultaneously. “Brace abs as if you are about to be punched in the stomach.” This is first taught while lying in supine (on your back) with your spine in a neutral position. Exercises are progressed into other positions as tolerated by the patient, as he or she gets stronger.
Studies show that healthy individuals contract the deepest layer of abdominals first, called the transversus abdominals, before moving their arms or legs. Conversely, studies have found that people with low back pain have difficulty contracting this muscle, which results in spinal instability. OSR therapists here in Kailua use transversus abdominis strengthening exercises to help restore proper functioning of the deeper abs. To target these muscles, we teach another technique call abdominal hollowing in which we cue patients to exhale forcefully and draw their belly button in towards their spine and to hold initially for about 10 seconds while coordinating with their breathing. As patients get better at contracting their transversus abdominis, we progress them into abdominal bracing for further core stabilization and compliment this with strengthening glutes and low back muscles.
If you or someone you know is experiencing low back pain, contact OSR and start working on that core stability at our integrated health center today! Call 488-5555 to make an appointment or contact us here!
Authota, V. Core Stability Exercise Principles. file:///C:/Users/js/Downloads/Core_Stability_Exercise_Principles.14.pdf
Kim, M. Abdominal Hollowing and Bracing Strategies Increase Joint Stability in the Trunk Region During Sudden Support Surface Translation But Not in the Lower Extremities. http://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-back-and-musculoskeletal-rehabilitation/bmr633
Tayashiki, K. Effect of Abdominal Bracing Training on Strength and Power of Trunk and Lower Limb Muscles. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00421-016-3424-9
Abdominal Bracing and Hollowing. http://www.bigbackpain.com/abdominal-bracing-hollowing.html