What Is The Core? Why Is It So Important?
By: Paul Bell, PT
Many of the pain problems that we treat every day in our Physical Therapy department are related to imbalances in the “core”.
The core encompasses the many groups of muscles from the top of your spine, supporting your head and neck, to the bottom of your spine (your tailbone) to support your low back and pelvis. These muscle groups are counterbalanced in your neck, chest and abdomen in the front, with the muscles of your shoulders, back and buttocks in the back.
When the core is properly balanced front to back and side to side, erect posture is maintained and “neutral” alignment protects you from aches and pains. If you sit, stand or move about out of “neutral” alignment, mostly unaware of the changes taking place, pain will start. If you have lost your “neutral” alignment and you use poor body mechanics while lifting, for example, you may strain your back or neck.
It is possible to develop low back pain or neck pain without any obvious injury. The cause may be a slow progression of poor posture while sitting for hours at work or in the car. The reason is you are developing weakness in one part of the core and tightness in the opposite or adjacent muscles.
The core is important because it forms a brace to support the use of your arms, neck and hands in the upper back and chest. It also supports the use of your legs through the large muscles of the lower back, pelvis and lower abdomen. These 2 groups of muscles are known as the “shoulder girdle and the “pelvic girdle”. The “girdles” are the braces that support your spines ability to maintain “neutral posture and also maintain your height as you age.
The more hours a day we sit, the more the core turns off. Shutting down the core with anything less than perfect sitting posture will cause an out of neutral posture and eventually chronic neck and back pain.
There are many things you can do to ward off the almost inevitable neck and back pain that most people suffer. Working on our core, the primary stabilizer for everything you do, should come first. There are many on-line books and videos and resources in the library and book stores to help you get started. Learn how to support all of your trunk muscles (the Core). Then you can work on your arms, legs and do cardio activities without injury.
Visit a Physical Therapist for a formal posture assessment and guidance specifically designed for you.
Be aware of posture in everything you do!!
Love your workouts and you will enjoy pain free activity in all you do!