Growing up in New Zealand, I was a pretty active child, spending most of my childhood running around and exploring the outdoors. Pretty soon I started gymnastics and progressed through to a high level, competing up until age 16 when I stopped due to unrelenting lower back pain.
Despite following a pretty intensive strength and conditioning programme for years, I thought I had a good level of strength, in particular core strength. So it came as a bit of a shock when I began my physiotherapy studies and Pilates training that I learnt that my core was actually rather weak! But how could this be? After years of doing sit-ups, planks and other core work, surely I had a strong core?
Turns out this isn’t always the case.
Your core is more than just having a six-pack. It is made up of many layers of muscles that lie deep within your body and sit close to the spine and pelvis. They all work together to stabilise your spine, hips, pelvic floor and much more! It is quite literally the core powerhouse for the majority of your body’s movements.
These muscles attach closely to the spine and pelvis, working to stabilise these joints during movement. Without the control and activation of these muscles your hips and spine are put under more strain and placed at a higher risk of injury, such as muscle strains and disc herniation.
Think of a tent, with a centre pole (your spine) and the guide wires pulling on it to keep it upright (your muscles). Without these wires, the pole becomes unstable, wobbly and it’s likely your tent will collapse!
The core is more of a stabilizer, rather then a prime mover. This means that it switches on during day-to-day movements and activities, such as standing up, squatting, lifting and running. While other large muscles do the main movements, the core is the underlying stabilizer to provide a strong, stable base for movement to occur.
After gaining a better understanding of this I was able to apply the principals of Pilates to strengthen my core and reduce my lower back pain. Not only has this affected my approach to my training, exercise and day-to-day activities, but it has also changed the way I treat; I have found that including some aspects of core strengthening into a patient’s rehabilitation can be hugely beneficial for many patients, from lower back pain to athletic performance improvement.
For further information, or to arrange an appointment with Tessa, call us on 0161 832 9000