Strengtheining the Core Through Coordination

When we talk about “the core” of the body, we are typically referencing the musculature around the abdomen and low back. These muscles consist of the abdominal muscles (rectus abdomini, ¬†internal obliques, external obliques, and transversi) and the muscles of the back (lattisimus dorsi, serratus posterior inferior muscles, erector spinae, multifidi, interspinalis muscles, lateral intertransversi muscles, quadratus lumborum, and to some degree the iliopsoas).

Strengthening the core has become a fairly popular mantra these days. Many of us are walking around with poor posture and a fair amount of dysfunction as a result of poor core stability. A weak core leaves one susceptible to a host of joint and disc injuries as well as overly tight butt and leg and muscles. In contrast, a strong core can prevent a host of back injuries.

The word strength, however, needs some clarification in the context of strengthening the core. When most people think of strengthening muscles, they picture muscles moving against  significant resistance like lifting weights or power movement against gravity or some other force. These type of exercises can actually be detrimental to the core muscle and increase the risk of injury to the spine. Coordinating the movement of all of these muscle is what is most beneficial.

I mentioned in my last article that postural muscles are slow twitch, white fiber muscles designed for endurance. They need to be strong enough to hold you up all day. Strength in this case does not come from bigger muscle fibers but from having all of the muscle firing in a controlled and proper order. For example, if you lift a box, ideally your abdominal muscle and your spinal muscle would contract at the same time to stabilize the body so the shoulder and arms and hips and leg muscles can utilize their power to lift it. What often happens is that core muscle lay dormant until a significant strain forces is to respond. So, when you lift a box, you first engage your back muscles until you are upright then, if you go past vertical, the abdominal muscles will engage. Then, they will fire back and forth while they try to find a semblance of stability.

I bring this all to your attention to encourage you to strengthen your core appropriately. Exercises that promote coordinated movement like yoga, pilates, and modified exercises from yoga can make a huge difference. It can take time to build coordination  and it takes a consistent effort. In the following videos I demonstrate four very useful exercises for coordinating core muscles and therefore, strengthening it.

Cat/Cow

Bird Dog

A Safe Crunch

Side Bridge

Pregnancy and Chiropractic

First of all, yes, it is completely safe to receive chiropractic adjustments when you are pregnant even at 9 months. In fact, it can be very beneficial. Shoot, my wife’s OBGYN is my top referring MD. Why? Because when his patients are suffering from the ravages of pregnancy, all he can do is be a sympathetic ear or recommend Tylenol. He knows that chiropractic care is safe and can help manage his patients symptom where options are limited.

For those who are unaware, pregnancy can be really hard on a body. For the record, when we men argue that we are the tougher of the two genders, women can always trump the argument by simply mentioning pregnancy and child birth. Trust me, no man is tough enough to withstand. Add to that list the duties of motherhood and it is game, set, match. During pregnancy the fetus becomes top priority. This means that the body will compensate and adjust to keep the baby viable. Nutrients needed will be taken from whatever source available. In addition, the shape, weight, posture, and the mechanics of the body, especially the core, change and adapt for the growing baby. Combine that with the production of the hormone relaxin which softens up all of the joints to allow the baby to be birthed, and the potential for dysfunction is inevitable.

Getting chiropractic adjustments during pregnancy helps the body cope with all of those changes. When joints and ligaments become lax, the muscles tighten to compensate. This alters the mechanics. The adjustment helps restore the body’s mechanics and therefore reduces the secondary and tertiary responses like muscle spasms. Proper function will make it easier to carry and deliver the baby and will also help joints maintain coordination which positively affects the nervous system. Properly functioning nerves will promote better health, in general. A classic example of this is managing heartburn. When my wife was pregnant with our 2nd child, she had terrible heartburn. We found that adjustments were much more effective than antacids in controlling it because of the connection between the nerve roots in the midback that go to the esophagus.

Chiropractic care during pregnancy is not just effective for low back pain relief and heartburn, it is also helpful in treating tension headaches, foot pain, hip pain, mid back pain and tightness, shoulder soreness, constipation, and much more.

Keep in mind that predicting a schedule for treatment during pregnancy is impossible. The body changes too fast. Some women need chiropractic adjustments every so often and others may need an adjustment several times a week. The key is to keep things functioning as best we can and not let it get bad.

Finally, during pregnancy the body does not heal as well. If you are pregnant and experience trauma or just have a traumatic pregnancy, be patient. It will take time after the delivery to heal up properly. If you are adjusted during pregnancy and again after delivery, your healing time will improve dramatically.