NUTLEY, NJ--Everyone has seen those late night infomercials promoting the newest gadget or fad diet promising you can “Get a rock hard core before summer!” Most people think that having a strong core just makes you look good on the beach, but the core is much more important than that. The term “core” refers to the group of muscles that work together to provide stability, support, and protection for the lumbar spine and pelvic girdle. 

Anatomy of the core--When people hear the word “abs” they immediately think of the 6 pack muscles on the front of the abdomen. However,  the abdominals are actually a network of muscles that include the rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal obliques and external obliques. When contracted in isolation these muscles move the trunk forward, side to side, or in a rotational motion. When these muscles contract together as a team, they help to stabilize the lumbar spine and the pelvic girdle. The muscles of the hips, including the gluteal muscle group, also contribute to the positioning and stability of the hips, pelvis, and lumbar spine. Lastly, the network of tiny muscles called the multifidaerun between each vertebrae in the spine, helping to provide stability between each segment. All of these muscle groups need to work as a unit to promote optimal movement of the hips and spine. If the muscles are weak or if a person has trouble activating the muscles in a controlled manner, it will lead to improper body mechanics and faulty movement patterns. 

Why is the core important?--The muscles comprising the core are important for maintaining stability and controlling movement of the spine and hips during a wide variety of day-to-day tasks and athletic activities. Having a strong core helps to maintain proper body mechanics, improve athletic performance,  and protect the spine from disc issues and other injuries. Weakness of the core musculature, in addition to poor motor control and body mechanics, can be a contributing factor for many types of low back and hip pain. If you have low back or hip pain that you feel may be caused in part by having a weak core, contact one our offices to schedule an evaluation with one of our qualified therapists.

Dr. Todd Zafonte, PT, DPT, CSCS is a physical therapist at Pro Staff, an advertiser with TAPinto