Core stability exercises are those exercises by which the corset of muscles surrounding the abdomen and back are made stronger. By working these core muscles harder, a more solid base is provided, upon which all other muscles can work upon to initiate movement. Strengthening these muscles is a method by which low back pain can often be reduced and even prevented.
So, what are these core muscles? They are the muscles of the abdominal wall, pelvis, lower back and diaphragm, including the transversus abdominis, internal and external obliques, quadratus lumborum and the diaphragm.
Let’s go through the four main muscle groups in a bit more detail…
Transversus abdominis – the deepest abdominal muscle, found under the rectus abdominis, or ‘ab/six-pack’ muscles. This is the main muscle providing ‘core’ stability. The muscle connects to the individual vertebrae forming the lumbar spine (lower back) and wraps around each side, coming together in the front of the abdomen. When contracted, the muscle increases pressure in the abdomen and pulls the vertebrae tightly together, providing greater spinal stability.
Multifidis – these are the deep back muscles, found on either side of the spine, connecting to each individual lumbar spine vertrebrae. Its function is to aid extension of the back (bending backwards) as well as being an essential postural muscle, helping keep the spine upright, opposing the natural tendency of the body to flex (curl up, as in the foetal position).
Diaphragm – this is the primary muscle used for breathing, providing the ‘roof’ to the core muscles. When the transversus abdominis contracts, the diaphragm tightens, maintaining pressure in the abdomen and providing stability to the spine.
Pelvic floor – provide a sling running from back to front, from the tip of the spine to the front of the pelvis. These muscles contract simultaneously with the transversus abdominis to form the ‘floor’ of the core muscles.
Weakness in these muscles is often the root cause of low back pain. Strengthening the weak muscles and stretching shortened muscles can often relieve this pain. The core is often trained using Pilates or with a Swiss ball exercises.
If you have lower back pain, or any other muscle or joint pain, it may be worthwhile coming to see us at Atlas Osteopathy (with clinics in East Finchley and Moorgate, as well as the option of home visits), where we can explain your problems to you, why they occur and whether or not you are suitable for osteopathic treatment. Often this can be done via email or on the phone.