Core stability

What is Core Stability?


The spine, like other parts of the body is controlled by two types of muscles – prime movers (large muscles which make the spine/limbs move) and postural muscles which do not cause large movements, but hold the bones in place. In the spine these postural muscles have two functions:

  • Keep the spine upright – maintain a good posture
  • Segmental stability – keep each vertebrae in line with surrounding vertebrae

  It is segmental stability that is important in core stability

Imagine the spine like cotton reels balancing on each other. Some muscles only attach to every two or three vertebrae and so during movement the vertebrae are not held in strict alignment. This can cause stretching of spinal capsules and ligaments, which are very pain sensitive and produce ‘back pain’.

Segmental muscles – we are particularly interested in Transversus Abdominis on the front and Multifidus on the back, attach from segment to segment, thus allowing full stability and control when movement occurs.

Recent research has shown that recruitment or ‘use’ of these segmental muscles is switched off during an episode of acute lower back pain and they are not necessarily switched on again once the pain has settled – leading to a chronic lower back pain problem.

Physiotherapists teaching specific core stability exercises educate these muscles to work so stabilising the spine and preventing strain and sprain of small ligaments/capsules and subsequent lower back pain.

The Transversus Abdominis is interesting, as it works as a ‘corset’ to protect the vertebrae and can be activated at will, when lifting or bending to provide a natural corset.

Research on chronic lower back pain sufferers who undertake exercise programmes is promising.

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