by Richard Hollis
Many people have heard the term ‘core stability’ bandied around a fitness class but few would claim to know exactly what the term actually means. In actual fact, core stability is as important in everyday life as it is in the gym. It helps to prevent injuries in activities from gardening and DIY to shopping!
In essence, core stability means ‘stability of the spine’. Your core muscles are those in your stomach and back and ‘core strength’ is the ability to support your spine and keep your body stable and balanced. It is the strength that allows you to perform manual tasks safely and effectively in everyday life.
Those who are lacking in this area of strength are more likely to suffer from back injuries, and the likelihood of other peripheral injuries also increases in those with a weak core as these core muscles also help to transmit the forces from the lower limbs to the upper limbs and vice versa.
The core muscles themselves are numerous existing up the entire length of the torso. Whilst there are core muscles in the mid back and neck, the ones that take the heaviest loads are those in the lower back. These lie deep within the trunk of the body, generally attaching to the spine, pelvis and muscles that support the shoulder blades.
Importantly, there are two particular core muscles that have been shown to be weak in those that have or have had lower back pain:
The Transverse Abdominus (TA) is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and lies under the muscles of your waist. It acts as a weightlifters belt – wrapping around the spine for support, protection and stability.
The Multifidus Muscles (MF) are a group of small muscles close in to the spine. These muscles can’t be contracted directly but respond to the movement and action of the TA. They are also the first to start to waste away in an episode of back pain.
All of these muscles are present deep in the lower back and stomach and cannot be felt readily from the surface.
If you are suffering from lower back pain which you believe may be related to weakened core stability, your chiropractor or physiotherapist.