The concept of ‘core’ conditioning has evolved significantly since the millennium and there have often been some common misunderstandings of the mechanisms, which can increase the prevalence of back pain. I know because I taught them in an inappropriate way, that’s the way that I was taught. But times change and increased knowledge and application go a long way for someone to determine what works and what doesn’t. Many people still have back pain despite participation in core conditioning regimes, pilates and other types of 'core' workouts.
Many lay peoples understanding of the core is that a strong set of abdominal and back muscles prevents back pain. This statement is false and I have seen hundreds of people with strong trunk muscles all still prevent with back pain. Overtraining of the core is responsible for increasing back pain in many individuals. Many focus on strength, skipping key elements such as flexibility and stability paving the way for muscular dysfunction. Neuromuscular retraining should often be the focus for optimal core function but for many throwing big weights around, worrying about weight loss or how many spin classes they can get to takes precedence over dysfunctional movement and pain .
Then there is the concept of the inner unit which was touted by Richardson, Jull and Hodges, a good book and one that was part of the curriculum at the CHEK Institute (where I learnt a lot about rehabilitation) and no doubt many other institutions and how, by isolation of the Transversus Abdominus or TrA created an increase in Intra-Abdominal Pressure (IAP) co contracted with the multifidus and worked intrinsically with the pelvic floor.
Training the TrA in isolation fails to offer the complete picture and treatment for segmental stability. The diaphragm working in co-contraction with the TrA, pelvic floor and lumbar multifidus present a more appropriate method for stabilising not only the lumbar spine but provide a foundation for a more efficient methodology of rehabilitation which covers stability.
The Rehabilitation School of Prague’s model of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilisation offers a compelling model of stabilisation via developmental kinesiology. How the developing child moves and integrates stability is an effective method for re-integration of the intrinsic stabilisation system which comprises of the diaphragm, pelvic floor, TrA and spine flexors and extensors. The image below of the open scissors position of the rib cage and pelvis details the oblique angle that can occur when poor stability is mediated by poor diaphragmatic action.
With DNS technique the flare of the rib cage and optimal contraction of the diaphragm can be corrected in the space of minutes to provide an optimal pathway for diaphragmatic breathing.
This concept is an effective method for rehabilitation but in my opinion there remain questions when utilising the concept of stability from the trunk. The diaphragm has the capacity to work segmentally too much or too little based upon a client’s injury history. Here are just some of many scenarios where the intrinsic stabilising system could become dysfunctional.
• TMJ or jaw dysfunction
• C section or other significant scars on the body
• Pelvic floor dysfunction
• Any other muscles has the capacity to affect any other muscle in the body.
• Local inhibition of synergistic, functional opposites or stabilising muscles
• Emotional distress
• Broken bones
• Functional slings such as the posterior oblique sling, lateral sling and others
• Why you get neck pain
Use of a joint by joint approach to testing such as Neuro Kinetic Therapy ™ helps to establish a baseline for dysfunctional patterns of facilitation (overworked muscles) and inhibition (underworking muscles). Decisions should be made as whether a mobility or a motor control issue exist. Motor control or the ability of the muscles to be efficiently recruited by the nervous system can be rectified by understanding patterns of inhibition and rewiring the nervous system for optimal control. Integration between both NKT and DNS techniques allows for a progression from pain and dysfunction to integrated movement patterns that can be hard wired with practice of developmental kinesiology exercises.
Many traditional and rehabilitation conditioning exercises often serve to increase dysfunction. Extension and even neutral load training based exercises such as deadlifts, bird dogs and horse stances can increase activation of the thoracolumbar fascia which serves as a conduit for force transfer especially for the posterior oblique sling.
A release of the thorocolumbar fascia and integration of the posterior oblique sling through proprioception via taping or exercises remains an efficient method of neuro muscular activation rather than just increasing motor activity via strength and conditioning exercises.
Integration of techniques allows for a much more efficient treatment for clients who suffer from pain and movement dysfunction and can truly get to the core of both acute and chronic conditions. Isolated approaches yield isolated results.
To find out more about how to get out of pain and improve movement and energy please get in touch.
Frank, C Kobesova, A and Kolar, P.Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilisation and Sports Therapy.Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2013 February; 8(1): 62–73.
Myers, T. Anatomy Trains. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier. 2001.
Richardson C, Hodges P and Hides, J. Therapeutic Lumbo Pelvic Stabilisation. Churchill Livingstone. 1999
Weinstock, D. Nuero Kinetic Therapy. An Innovative Approach to Muscle Testing. North Atlantic Books.