I recently have heard people talking about the importance of core strength. Why is it so important?
Your core muscles, consisting of the abdominals and gluteal muscle groups, are a key group of muscles for spinal stability and health. These muscles also have a significant influence on lower extremity biomechanics during gait, running, and sporting activities as well as upper extremity function with such tasks as reaching or serving a tennis ball. When you have a healthy spine with optimal muscular strength and flexibility, your lumbar region serves as a foundation from which lower and upper extremity movement and function can occur. When muscle imbalances exist, your resulting movement is less efficient and excess stresses can be placed on otherwise healthy structures. For example, if your latissimus dorsi (a muscle that runs from your back to your shoulder) is short and tight and you raise your arm overhead to serve a volleyball or tennis ball and your abdominals are not strong enough to stabilize your lumbar spine it may excessive extend placing excess stress on your lumbar discs and joints. Over time with many repetitions of the same activity you would be more susceptible to developing low back pain.
Weak core muscles often contribute to faulty biomechanics during movement resulting in increased stresses on joints, opposing muscle groups, and soft tissue structures. For example, when you gluteal muscles are weak there may be a resultant mild hip drop while running or jumping which can put stress on the knee, ankle, and foot.
If your decreased core stability has contributed to low back, hip, knee, ankle, or foot pain your physician may recommend physical therapy. The physical therapist will evaluate your biomechanics and check for muscle imbalances. Depending on your situation, physical therapy may involve manual therapy techniques, flexibility exercises, core stabilization, and modalities for pain control. One popular method of core stability training is through the use of Pilates. Pilates is a series non-weightbearing exercises designed to target the abdominals and gluteals in coordination with your breathing. It is important to note that this series of exercises was originally designed for professional ballerinas and that the beginner level exercises may need to be modified in order to perform the exercise correctly. This is true even if you are not injured and want to use Pilates to strengthen your core to prevent injuries.
It is important to consult with an appropriate healthcare provider before initiating any exercise program. If you are injured and wish to incorporate Pilates into your rehabilitation, it is important to consult a qualified healthcare provider who understands the appropriate modifications of the exercises for your particular condition. If you are not injured and wish to use Pilates as a form of exercise for core stabilization training, it is recommended that you seek the assistance of a qualified Pilates instructor to minimize your risk of performing the exercises incorrectly.
This article was written by Jenni Masterson, PT, MSPT, OCS, ATC,CEAS from NovaCare-Andersonville..