What is core strength and why is it so important?

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Lower back pain is a common complaint that about 80 per cent of the population will experience. While it can range from debilitating pain to an ache, the long-term principle of improving core strength is crucial to prevent recurring problems and minimise chronic pain.

So, what is core strength and why is it so important? Core muscles help to support your spine. Your lower back consists of five vertebrae that sit upon your sacrum (tailbone). Your deep core muscles, including transverse abdominus and multifidus, are the main structures that support and control vertebral movement. They are designed to contract for long periods of the day and be energy efficient.

Unfortunately, following any episode of lower back pain, your brain inhibits or ‘turns off’ these muscles. This inhibition leaves the spine vulnerable to further injury and persistent chronic pain. When working well, deep core muscles combine with your superficial abdominal and back muscles, allowing the back to be a strong and stable structure.

If managed correctly, these core muscles can be re-activated and re-trained. Your physiotherapist is well equipped to assess your core strength and recommend specific exercises. Your program may start basic and progressively increase in difficulty. The first step is implementing strategies or thought processes to re-engage and switch on your core. Quality core contractions and strength are more important than quantity. Cues that may help include “drawer in your belly button” or “standing as tall as possible”.

Regardless of acute or chronic episodes of back pain, rehabilitation should always include some form of core exercise. This will include home-based exercises and possibly a short course of clinical Pilates. For those who may experience chronic pain, it is important to be patient and persistent. Depending on your duration of symptoms, your core muscles may not have been activated or used for a long period of time.

Jason Lee APAM
B. Physiotherapy
Malvern East Physiotherapy

Jason is happy to answer any questions you may have simply send an email to [email protected]

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