This post series is NOT going to be a treatise on the definition of the core.
Suffice to say that there are many different interpretations about that subject.
Some consider only the abdominal musculature to be the core.
Others would consider pretty much everything in the torso and midsection to be integral to core function.
In fact, with more research going into fascial lines and connections, I bet we’ll see even more complex core models come in to play in the near future!
That being said, in this post series I’m just going to discuss WHY a functioning core (no matter what your definition) is fundamental for avoiding or resolving low back pain and many other musculoskeletal aches and pains.
As I’ve written before, I believe the core has two main functions. These are:
1. To resist movement. This can be further broken down into resisting flexion (forward bending), extension (bending backwards), side flexion (bending to the side) or any combination of these (rotations).
2. To transfer energy. This includes creating the ability to run, jump, throw, or do pretty much any activity that requires movement in a gravity rich environment.
So why are these two core functions important?
As discussed previously here (causes of low back pain), one of the common elements that often appears is motor control issues. A malfunctioning core falls into this category.
Keeping in mind the first of the two core functions, we can see that resisting movement is a stability function. And that’s what the core should be doing.
Our bodies are constantly under attack by all sorts of forces, many of these which are directly or indirectly influenced by gravity. They are referenced by many titles and go by many different names: shear, torsion, pressure, traction, compression, distraction and so on.
These forces, whether big or small, are constantly wearing down our bodies like water erodes rock and stone over time. These forces will eventually cause enough damage that something will give and we end up in pain or injured.
If our core is properly functioning, our bodies are better able to tolerate and dissipate these forces. Our bodies are better able to ward off the negative effects.
Let’s dig a little deeper and see just how a properly functioning core can spare your spine.
When all systems are working properly, the core muscles function to stabilize the many spinal components. If there is less movement through the spine, then there is less potential for wear, tear and damage. The spine is buffered against these eroding forces.
Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying that your spine shouldn’t move at all!
Quite the opposite.
There should be a SMALL amount of movement that takes place between the joints of the spinal column.
This is normal and required.
However, in my experience, most people move way TOO MUCH through their lower back thus putting all sorts of body parts at risk for injury, including the discs, joints, and ligaments.
Now moving on to the second core function of transferring energy.
The typical problem here is the potential for inefficient transfer of energy.
This faulty transfer can occur between our bodies and the environment (e.g. loss of energy between the ground and our feet when running) or even between body segments (e.g. loss of power from hips to shoulder to arm to hand when throwing a baseball).
Over time, these energy leaks lead to compensatory movements. These “cheating” ways of movement don’t allow our body to properly buffer against those daily forces, which then puts of muscles, tendons, joints and discs at risk for pain or injury.
So how do you fix these?
In my next post, I’ll outline a short, basic core training program that I’ve used to help clients better understand and apply proper core function to resist movement, to transfer energy and get them back to enjoying a pain free life.
Yours in movement.