Should you be working on your ‘CORE’?
What is the CORE?
The ‘CORE’ is the deep muscle system that stabilises the spine and pelvis. The muscles that make up the CORE are not just the ‘lower abs’, but a complex group of postural muscles that work together in a cylinder fashion. They act like a corset, controlling the person’s posture as well as allowing other powerful and larger global ‘mobiliser’ muscles to effectively move the body during walking and normal daily movement, as well and increase stability and control as needed in sport and exercise.
Pain and Injury Affects the CORE
Most people have trouble ‘switching on’ the CORE due to previous back pain, pregnancy, post-childbirth or sports injuries. The inner muscles tend to ‘turn off’ to a degree because of the pain or injury and usually struggle to properly ‘turn back on’ for a long period of time. This leads to ongoing pain or other problems developing throughout the legs. As a result, the body compensates by either;
Increasing the workload onto the large lower back ‘mobiliser (global)’ muscles causing back muscle fatigue and spasm
The weakness developed in the core over time creates the person to adopt a poor pelvic and lower back posture. This means other ‘global’ abdominal, back and hip muscles tend to tighten up to stabilise which in turn creates secondary injuries and prevents the person to get the right ‘CORE’ muscles working again!
Problems with Training the CORE
It is very common today that people are doing ‘CORE’ exercises, and a lot of the time this helps with strength, stability and reducing back pain. However, there are a large number of people who are not doing it correctly:
The person has poor activation or awareness of what muscles to use, simply because the pain or injury has reduced the ability to control the right muscles. This prevents the person progression from the start.
Some people also attempt CORE exercises that are too advanced for them (like balancing on a Swiss ball). The body compensates and uses too many abdominal, back and hip muscles to stabilise the spine.
What to do?
If you have had lower back pain, recent pregnancy, childbirth, or sports injuries, and are having problems with training your CORE (or not doing any CORE training), you should seek advice from your Physiotherapist as soon as possible. They will be able to correct your technique and get you on a path of suitable progression of CORE training for the level you are at.