When people hear they need to strengthen their core they immediately think of the low back and abdominal muscles but aside from the ab and low back machine they are really unsure of what to do or why. Low back pain is the most common symptom of a weak core and the things we do everyday can lead to an injury at any given time when the core is weak. Talking with Dr. Nhat Nguyen a Jacksonville Fl chiropractor and expert in the field he agrees that there are many direct causes for low back injuries like incorrect posture or lifting technique, repetitive twisting motion and bending for lifting heavy weights. While it is possible that someone with a strong core can obtain an injury from these and other causes, it is far more likely that someone with a week core injures themselves.
The large muscles of your core provide posturing and movement to the spine, these muscles can be controlled voluntarily meaning you think of flexing a muscle, or moving a certain way, and the muscle responds. You voluntarily use your brain to activate the muscle. The small muscles of your spine provide stabilization. These muscles are responsible for keeping you upright without you thinking about it, and for protecting the spine from injury. These muscles are involuntary, they fire (flex) in anticipation to a voluntary movement, or in response to an involuntary loading of the spine. The small involuntary stabilizing muscles are the ones that most people usually neglect because they either don't understand them, or don't know about them.
Almost all of us have seen an exercise ball and many of us even know that it's for core strengthening, but few of us know the why or how behind it. An exercise ball requires balance just to sit on it, not to mention exercising on it. When you balance on something do you think you are actively telling your muscles to flex and relax to keep you upright, or do they do it automatically? Right, automatically, therefore you are using your involuntary core musculature to balance on the ball. Simply sitting on the ball can be step one. Spend 20 or 30 minutes a day just sitting on it while you work on the computer or watch TV and you will be on your way to core stabilization. Step two could be doing crunches on the ball and or low back extensions instead of using the structured machines at the gym that require zero balancing. When you are not balancing you are not using stabilizing muscles.
For more information on core stabilization and low back pain feel free to contact Dr. Nguyen http://www.meridianintegrativewellness.com/ or myself Dr. Ryan Giel
Yours for better health,
Ryan Giel DC