transversus abdominus

Getting to the core and why you have back pain despite rock hard abs!

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.

why you get back pain, DNS

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. index

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. tape Posterior oblique sling and reducing back pain

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.

References:

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.

Cesarean section or Chaos section? Why you may have back pain after your baby.

Medical systems can often create a vicious cycle and the Cesarean section is one such cycle. The creation of specialist departments often creates a vacuum where, what some might think as minor issues go ignored, yet affect those who have to undertake specialist procedures. In any other system say finance or banking it would be called negligence or incompetence for failing to notice where the system broke down (something not often noticed until after the debacle has occurred) but because it often involves individuals who suffer from one of the most common medical issues in the world the cause and effect often go unnoticed. It's a simple statement Cesarean sections could be one of the leading causes of back pain in females. A statement that can be validated fairly easily when you observe this phenomenon on a regular basis . I have never met a female client who had a C-section who didn't suffer from either lumbar, cervical or sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Governments who want to save hundreds of millions of unnecessary cash spent on treating back pain may want to scrutinise this point. It often serves the medical insurance system to keep this cycle system in full flow.lumbar spine

Females who have suffered from back pain, most likely due to failure to rehabilitate the key stabilising mechanisms of the the lumbo-pelvic complex may have avoided back pain all together. Implementing a basic program would not only help to avoid back pain but may aid women back into exercise much sooner assisting any psychological issues such as post-natal depression.

A general rule for low level exercise post C-section to begin is 6-8 weeks. The healing process starts immediately post op and the nutritional status and individuals immune system plays a significant role in healing time, decrease of infections and energetic processes.

During the surgery process. The skin, abdominal fascia, Rectus Abdominus and Transversus Abdominus (TrA) are easily severed with many nerves also being affected by the surgeons scalpel. This is where the chaos begins. Whilst the global implications of movement dysfunction are readily observed with restrictions to simple tasks such as standing, sitting and even turning over in bed. The local intrinsic nature of lumbo-pelvic stabilisation dysfunction is not observed until the women attends a specialist to deal with a particular pain syndrome. More often than not light cardiovascular exercise is recommended which serves to deepen the dysfunction not only due to the lack of appropriate muscle activation but also due to its effects on respiration.

The TrA whilst important with its synergistic role with the multifidi, diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles also has an essential function with respiration. During inspiration the primary muscle of inspiration the diaphragm contracts displacing the abdominal viscera outwards and downwards placing both the muscles of the pelvic floor and TrA in a stretched position. The natural recoil of the TrA assists in exhalation,helping to force air from the lungs. Post C-section this action can diminish placing additional stress on the excessory muscles of respiration. Additionally the flexors of the trunk, primarily the Rectus abdominis often become inhibited and other muscles can facilitate in response to altered movement dysfunction. In one case a patient with multiple C-sections presented with chronic recurrent cervical and lumbar disc issues. In particular the MRI showed a flattened cervical spine and it is worth-speculating that the anterior cervical flexors facilitated in response to a lack of trunk flexion. The patient was literally trying to flex her whole spine with her neck flexors. Use of Neuro Kinetic Therapy (TM) helped to re-establish synergistic neck and trunk flexion by restoring equilibrium.conceptual model

In this and 100% of all clients who have had a C-section the TrA can either be facilitated or inhibited. strategies to stabilise compromised structures and dysfunctional movement can be local or global. How Muscular dysfunction occurs

Strategies can include:

Breath holding via facilitation and compromised diaphragmatic action Facilitation of the pelvic floor Clenching of the masticatory muscles of the TMJ/Jaw Local compensation such as Quadratus Lumborum facilitation Cervical muscle facilitation and inhibition Altered lower limb mechanics including plantar fascia and disruption of dorsi flexion and toe mechanics.

Scar tissue formation can be problematic due to adhesions of healing tissue in particular to fascial continuation, function and adhesion of tissue to internal organs. Addressing these adhesions and restoring optimal function of the TrA and its dual facilitory or inhibitory effect on both local and global structures can be achieved with therapies such as NKT and appropriate corrective exercises. Even without a Cesarean section, you can apply the same rationale to tears or episiotomy procedures and the same fuzziness that the nervous system experiences when trying to provide stability to the body.

References: Chek, P. Posture and Craniofacial Pain. A Chiropractic Approach to Head Pain. Williams and Wilkins 1994

Weinstock, D. Neuro Kinetic Therapy. North Atlantic Books. Berkeley, California.

 

Is your functional training making you dysfunctional?

Buzz words of the last decade in the health and fitness industry were terms such as functional, core, ground reaction, Paleo, intermittent fasting etc etc. It is an easy approach for people to throw around these types of phrases, impressing clients without having a true understanding of what they really mean. Like many it took me some time to realise that to get people strong you need a combination of good therapy, improved movement patterns and ultimately lifting well.  The emphasis on functional training has contributed to increased facilitation patterns which contribute to musculo-skeletal issues, much in the same way that the circuit training phase of the 90’s did. Now there are increased loads and patterns of dysfunction by methodologies such as Boot Camps, Cross Fit, TRX classes, Endurance events and the like and more than ever, I (and my peers) am seeing the incidence of overuse injuries created by inhibition and facilitation from poorly constructed exercise programming.

Let’s take this guy below. His exercise using the TRX must be functional , it must be making him strong right? Well no and here’s why? This gym dude like millions of others makes the mistake of utilising balance with strength as an exercise. The net effect of this type of exercise is facilitation when there is instability without the ability to stabilise.

trxjpg

You can clearly note here a rounding of the upper back   and cranial extension caused by inability to stabilise using the cervical flexors, mid and lower trapezius.

Facilitated                                                                          Inhibited

Upper traps/Scalenes                                                     Cervical flexors

Levator Scapula                                                              Middle and lower trapezius

Pec minor and probably major in this case                    Latissimus dorsi

Sternocleidomastoid                                                      Subscapularis and other structures

The cervical extensors, upper traps and pec minor amongst other structures have the ability to disrupt breathing patterns, gait and decrease strength in patterns such as the squat and dead lift. Those who teach these type of exercises should be skilled in spotting movement dysfunction, inhibition and facilitation and understand strategies of how to correct these issues or at least understand that if you keep exercising in this way you will lead to breakdown of key stabilising structures.

Is it a ‘core’ problem?

The core is really the interaction of all the muscles in the body but specific attention has been paid areas such as the ‘inner unit’ which comprises of the Tranversus Abdominus (TrA), multifidus, diaphragm and pelvic floor and the outer unit which comprises of the abdominals and internal and external obliques which interlink with many larger muscles.  In reality these muscles work in tandem with other muscles to create structural balance.  Many people think that to train their core they have to blitz their abdominals, obliques and back muscles with intensity which creates dysfunction.

This is where common misconceptions occur. The core more often than not, needs to be recruited appropriately and that should occur with proper movement development and determining what other structures beyond the core (such as previous injuries) are prevalent. Many of these problems can occur as a result of many factors. Children who don’t develop crawling patterns, who are either rushed into walking or put into baby crawlers can be at risk in later life of poor breathing patterns and core dysfunction. The seated position is not great for the spine and muscles can develop inhibition as other muscles get overworked and the nervous system will always take the least path of resistance when it comes to movement and muscle activation. Additionally the seated position also helps to create inverted breathing patterns, which disrupts the stabilising capacity of core muscles.

Many people make the mistake of activating the TrA in all the time (or drawing the belly in), even when walking. This is a disaster as it creates facilitation of the accessory muscles of breathing, creating a forward head posture, rounded back and weak links in the chain from head to the toe. In fact in some schools of thought letting your belly out and pushing outwards  also increases abdominal pressure and stabilising mechanisms that are just as good if not better for ‘core’ recruitment. Sometimes we are so fixated about our weight that we constantly walk around with our belly drawn in…let it hang out I say.

References:

  1. DNS technique according to Kolar. Training Manual Rehabilitation School of Prague
  2. Hodges, P. W. Is there a role for Transversus Abdominis in Lumbo-Pelvic  Stability? Manual Therapy (1999) 4(2), 74±86
  3. Kolá, P. Importance of Developmental Kinesiology for Manual Medicine.1996
  4. Weinstock, D. Neuro Kinetic Therapy. North Atlantic Books 2010