What is my core? Why is core strength important?
The core of our body is not just the lower abdomen; what is considered the "core” goes from your sitting bones (the bones at the bottom of your pelvis) to your low ribs. Your core goes all the way around and through this area of your body, like a cylinder. The musculature that makes up the core are your transverse abdominals, rectus abdominals, obliques, pelvic floor, low back muscles, Gluteus muscles, and the external rotators of the hip. That’s A LOT of muscles! It is important to create strength and stability in these muscles and here’s why…
Our low back (lumbar spine) is not supported by our ribcage like our upper back (thoracic spine) is - in fact there is no other bony structure that supports our lumbar spine. We also have two big joints at the back of the pelvis called our Sacroiliac joints, or commonly referred to as the SI joints. There are two of these joints on each side of our sacrum (the big triangular bone at the back of the pelvis).These joints have a small amount of motion in them and they move when we walk, sit, stand, etc. When the muscles of the core are weak or imbalanced this puts a lot of pressure on the joints and discs of the lumbar spine (low back) as well as the SI joints.
Imagine a time when you have done a group project and you ended up doing all of the work. Did you feel cranky or even angry about it? This is how our lumbar spine and SI joints feel when they are doing all of the work and are not supported by the surrounding muscles. We can end up with chronic low back pain and SI joint pain or instability.
Here is a simple way to engage your core muscles: if you can picture what your pelvic bones look like, imagine your two sitting bones, the two pokey points at the bottom of your pelvis (ischial tuberosity). Imagine those two bones could narrow and meet each other at the middle of your body, (they can’t actually do this but imagine they could!). As you imagine this, you may feel your gluteus muscles tone and become active. Then imagine the boney part of your two front hip bones (Anterior Superior Iliac Spine or ASIS) as if they could narrow and meet at the middle of your body. As you do this you may feel your low abdominal muscles tone and engage. When you do both of these things at the same time you are engaging all of the muscles of the core, including the pelvic floor muscles which draw up toward your belly button when you do this exercise.
You can practice this exercise anytime and anywhere. This will begin to increase your core strength and awareness.
As always if you are unsure about this exercise or have any questions please reach out or ask at your next appointment!