Five Reasons Your Low Back Hurts (Part 3)

Your core is uncoordinated

 

Notice I didn’t say “weak”?  Just uncoordinated.

First, what is the core?  Many folks picture six-pack abs as the illustration of a perfect core. Nope.

The core consists of four muscle groups: pelvic floor, diaphragm, transverse abdominus, and multifidi.

 

In order for the core to properly stabilize you, all of these muscles must work together as a unit.  You can’t just train one part of the core and ignore the rest.  

What does an ideal core look like?

Imagine your core as a barrel, one that should extend from your diaphragm (below your ribs) all the way down to your pelvic floor.

The core is relaxed, and un-constricted, and then can brace very quickly to give you a stable base before you move your arms and legs.

What tends to go wrong?

A couple of things.  First, we are often told to suck our stomachs in.  Or we are anxious breathers, breathing shallowly into our upper chests.  Or, we are told to breathe into our bellies.

But, for the barrel to extend all the way down and protect our backs, we need to breathe all the way down to our pelvic floor.

If you only breathe to your belly, or if are constantly tensing your abs, your breath isn’t going far enough down to protect your back.

 Sucking in your stomach does not allow the breath to travel all the way down to your pelvic floor, robbing the low back of support

Sucking in your stomach does not allow the breath to travel all the way down to your pelvic floor, robbing the low back of support

If your core isn’t stabilizing your low back, then how does the back stabilize itself? By tensing the larger back muscles.

This is problematic both due to overworked back muscles, and because these larger muscles then compress the spine and create shearing forces.

You can massage your back muscles but it won’t solve the problem because you are still missing core stability in that area.  The muscles will keep getting tight because your body is trying to stabilize the area any way it can. 

Another thing that can go wrong with the core is misalignment of the diaphragm and pelvic floor.

Picture a barrel with the lid and base parallel.  If you press down on the top of the barrel forces will be distributed evenly and it will stay strong.

But what if the lid is tilted? Would it be easier to crush the barrel? Indeed.

In humans, this misalignment of diaphragm and pelvic floor (the top and bottom of the barrel) is often called the "open scissors" position.

 In open scissors position the diaphragm and pelvic floor are not well aligned, and coordinated abdominal pressure is lost

In open scissors position the diaphragm and pelvic floor are not well aligned, and coordinated abdominal pressure is lost

It’s not uncommon for folks with an uncoordinated core to have a "leaking barrel".  Acid reflux can occur as too much pressure is put on the esophageal sphincter.  Urine leakage with coughing, sneezing, laughing can occur as the pelvic sphincters have uneven pressures placed on them.

Therefore, an important component of coordinating the core is aligning the diaphragm and pelvic floor.  This can be achieved with simple postural cues.

How do I know if my core is uncoordinated?

If you have back pain, stress incontinence, acid reflux, compressed shoulders or hips, there’s a pretty good chance your core is uncoordinated.

I can plank for minutes and do tons of sit ups so my core has got to be awesome, right?

Not necessarily, as you may be using compensation patterns to achieve these amazing feats.  In the office I can perform simple tests to see if your core is truly working well.  If not, I want to figure out why not. 

Is it your C-section scar causing the problem? Is it a weak pelvic floor?  Is it an overactive pelvic floor?  Is your diaphragm too tight and dysfunctional?

Once compensation patterns are cleared out then some simple breathing exercises can help bring your core back to life.

This may sound very complicated, but it’s not.  As babies we learn how to properly stabilize our cores.  It’s a pattern we are all born with.  We just need to get back in touch with this pattern.

There is an entire technique called DNS (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization) that deals with how to easily get back to these pre-programmed patterns.  Combined with NeuroKinetic Therapy (a technique that helps us find what compensations are de-railing these patterns) we can often easily clear up uncoordinated cores. The best part?  No sit-ups required.

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