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The Core of the Matter

Marble Sculpture of Core MusclesIt’s everywhere. Health professionals and fitness gurus everywhere—and the team at Saratoga Spine—are all espousing the benefits of “strengthening your core.”

The term seemed to come out of nowhere and has become the buzzword in the world of fitness. The use of the word is not particularly new; it was first coined in the early eighties by former Mr. America Bob Gajda and orthopedist Richard H. Dominguez in their book Total Body Training. ­­

It is commonly assumed that the term ‘core strength’ is interchangeable with ‘abdominal muscle strength.’ In reality, your core is more than those dreamed about washboard abs. Rock-hard abs alone are not enough to protect your spine from the stresses it faces–every movement from daily living to rigorous sports. In fact, there are 27 muscles that make up your body’s core. Some, like toned abs and firm glutes, are visible, but most lie deeper within the body. They include muscles of the upper, middle and lower back, your buttocks, the pelvis, your sides and shoulders, your neck and, of course, your abs. To put it in simple terms, your core muscles are all of the muscles in your torso.

Core muscles working together can be thought of as a corset, wrapping 360 degrees around your spinal column to provide strength, stability and protection to both your spine, pelvis and internal organs. Picture all of your torso muscles contracting, like a fully tightened, neck to hip corset, and the resulting straightening of the spine. When the core muscles are conditioned the spine is lengthened your disks become uncompressed. A strong core means a lightened load on your back bones, reducing the source of cumulative, chronic back pain.

A stable, strong core greatly reduces the risk of back injury. These are the muscles that allow us to bend forward and side to side, to twist at the waist and to flex and rotate the trunk. They also allow our bodies to perform some of these movements at the same time. All of these activities performed buy weak core muscles may lead to acute back pain and injury.

The importance of good posture, which is virtually impossible without core muscles working together efficiently, can not be underestimated. A poorly toned core leads to slouching, which can cause excessive wear and tear on the spine and internal organs, and can keep you from breathing properly and is detrimental to your general health. Core muscles keep you upright and must be strong enough to keep a straight spine.

Is core training just another fad fitness trend that will go the way of the exercise belt? Research indicates core strength training is here to stay. Does it live up to the hype? Experts say yes. Your physician can assess your current core stability and guide you toward an exercise program suited to the exact needs of your body.

 

 

Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery