Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Want to have a correct posture and avoid from back pain?

Core stabilization

The spine itself is just bones stacked on top of one another, and in between the bones—to cushion them—are small discs. The core of each disc has the texture of cheese, and it is surrounded by tough fibrous tissue. To make the spine more stable, the part are all connected with layers of soft tissues called cartilage and ligaments. They are also connected by muscles. If these muscles are strong and working in proper order, you will have a solid base for movement and for absorbing impact of the ground through your body.

The main muscles involved in the core stabilization are deep muscles namely, transverse abdominus, multifidus and the muscles of the pelvic floor. The transverse abdominus is like a corset around your abdomen. Its the muscle you work if you tug in your tummy, where as the multifidus is the muscle that lies along your spine from your neck to your pelvis, with short fibers connecting the vertebra of the spine to other vertebrae near it. The muscles of the pelvic floor are most noticeable when you squeeze to keep yourself from urinating.

Other than that, muscles like the ones at your back and butt and also the muscles around your pelvis and hips will also help with the core stabilization.

Core stabilization strengthens the muscles of the core and helps you learn to use the inner muscles before you start to move. The focus is on stability, breathing, and smooth, coordinated movement. I went for a core stabilization course many years ago organised by a sports attire company in Malaysia. Below is an example of the core board that i used during the course

How to increase core strength and stability?

Core stabilization exercises are easy to do. You can start with the simple exercises. For starters you don't need any equipment and you don't need much space. You can do them almost anywhere, several times each day, to start increasing your core stability. eg the exercise below is the beginner's plank or bridge

It's more important that you do core stabilization activities well than you do a lot of them, meaning quality is better than quantity. Focus and try to do the simple workouts before you proceed with the more difficult ones. I would recommend you to have a check with your doctors first before you start with serious core exercises. You must also get qualified trainers/intructors to assis with the exercises before you do a more challenging workout.

In any exercise, you should breathe mostly with your diaphragm, the large muscle that helps move air in and out of your lungs.

To learn to breathe with your diaphragm, lie down on your back and put your hand on your stomach. When you breathe in and out, your hand should move up and down. Notice how it feels to breathe this way. When you start to exercise, try to get the same feeling of your chest and abdomen moving in and out as you breathe, rather than your chest and shoulders moving up toward your neck and back down.

There are three neutral curves in your spine, one in your neck, one in your upper back, and one in your lower back. These three curves help absorb stress and impact on your body, both while you are sitting or standing still and when you move. It may seem more relaxing to let yourself slump down, but when you lose the normal curves of a neutral spine, you actually put more stress on your body. Your spine should be in the neutral position when you do core stabilization exercises.

How to find neutral spine:

  1. Stand normally in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips, just below your waist.
  2. Allow your low back to arch so your stomach juts forward, and your buttocks stick out. Notice how your hands rotate forward.
  3. Tighten the muscles around your stomach and buttocks so your low back becomes very flat. Notice how your hands rotate backward.
  4. Now go halfway between the forward and back positions.
  5. Keeping your pelvis in this neutral position, stand tall with your ears and shoulders lined up over your hips.
  6. Practice finding neutral spine in three positions: standing, sitting, and lying on your back with your knees bent. When you can find neutral spine in each position, you can maintain good posture for daily activities and for exercise.

Simple exercises for beginners

Transverse abdominus contraction. The key to core stabilization is learning to use the deep muscles of your trunk. There are several muscles involved, but the first one to work on is your transverse abdominus. The transverse abdominus wraps around the front of your body like a corset. It's the muscle you feel when you cough. To contract the transverse abdominus, pull in your belly and imagine pulling your belly button back toward your spine. Hold this contraction for 5 to 10 seconds, then relax. Remember to keep breathing normally as you hold the contraction. You can do this exercise anywhere, while you work at your office desk, drive, or washing the dishes and doing house chores.

Bridging. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your transverse abdominus, then push with your feet and raise your buttocks up a few inches. Hold this position 5 to 10 seconds as you continue to breathe normally, then lower yourself slowly to the floor. Repeat 10 times.

You can gradually start with more difficult exercises using equipments such as the Fitball or the Core Board. Remember before you start, get qualified instructor to teach you with the simple moves first and slowly increase to a more challenging ones. Always listen to your own body, do not rush and take your time. The equipments will make it harder for you to keep your balance as you do the activity.

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