What is the core? What does it do? What determines if your core is working efficiently or not? If it was working better would I be pain-free? All great questions, to which I will answer in following text 😁
Being in pain really is not much fun, it reduces your day to day experience and simply is frustrating and annoying, I'm sure most of is would much prefer to be pain-free.
When it comes to back pain, there are many factors that can contribute to why this occurs for people and the reality is two different people may need a completely different approach to become pain-free. However we are going to focus on the core and the role the core will play in allowing you to have good lower-back health and less pain!
The reality is, most people would experience less back pain and potentially remove their back pain all together simply by getting their core working the way it actually should be working, so lets discuss that.
The core is essentially all the musculature that resides through the torso from the ribcage to the pelvis. I like to break the core into 2 main components; the inner unit and the outer unit. The inner unit includes the deeper musculature (transverse abdominus, multifidus, pelvic floor muscles and diaphragm) responsible for the finer, more intricate movement and stability of the spine, holding our internal organs in and even the diaphragm being our dominant breathing muscle - well at least it should be.
The outer unit includes the bigger more exterior muscles (rectus abdominus, internal obliques, external obliques and the erector spinae group) which are more responsible for maintaining a good shape through our torso and creating stability and rigidity throughout the torso (spine, ribs and pelvis) when the torso is put under load from external forces - such as lifting heavy things.
The inner unit should be able to function independently of the outer unit, when this is not the case problems can start to arise. For example when a women gives birth, quite often she will lose tone in her pelvic floor muscles which can result in incontinence and much worse if they are not retrained. If this is the case or is the inner unit cannot function independently - there is some work that needs to be done here. When the outer unit is engaged correctly, a healthy inner unit will co-contract with the outer unit.
Ultimately the function of the core is to maintain a neutral lumbar spine (lower back) and good rib and pelvis alignment independently of movement in our limbs. We should be able to maintain this alignment throughout any movements we perform on a day to day basis and most definitely during any movements we perform in a lifting environment.
If your core is not working correctly and you can not maintain this alignment, this is when the lumbar spine, the sacroiliac joint, certain muscles throughout the lower back and other areas can have excess force placed through them. When too much force is placed on an area it begins to break, or in this case you begin to experience pain.
The biomechanics of your body, the kind of training you do and many other various lifestyle factors will influence what kind of weaknesses are likely to present themselves within your core. These factors again will influence what the best approach for you will be to get you out of pain.
The main functions of the core that we want to train are anti-flexion, anti-extension, anti-lateral flexion and anti-rotation. It is also very important to learn to breath properly while holding a strong core within each of these functions along with the different levels of breathing that tie into being able to maintain optimal core activation at lower intensities through to really high intensities.
Many people would experience less back pain and potentially remove their back pain all together simply by getting their core working the way it actually should be working.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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