If you are like most people in the U.S., you may suffer from back pain. I would guess that 50%-75% of the prospective clients I have met over the last seven years have had back pain, whether acute or chronic. Consider these statistics from the American Chiropractic Association (1):
- Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability.
- Back pain is the most common reason employees miss work.
- Back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor (upper-respiratory infections were first).
- We spend around $50 billion each year on back pain here in the U.S.
- Experts estimate that as much as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some point in their lives.
There can be several causes of back pain ranging from trauma caused by an accident to simply moving the wrong way. The latter seems to be the biggest cause, so let's explore that a bit deeper.
When we say "cause", we are actually speaking about the event that presented the pain. More than likely the event was not the cause, but the tipping point after many years of poor movement and weakening of muscles.
As we get older, we become less active. We sit at desks working on computers all day. We commute sitting behind the wheel of our cars for 30 or more minutes each way to work. The weight begins to pile on, leaving us with less energy and more sitting. Our backs spend more time in flexion (hunched over). The muscles begin to weaken and no longer support our spine correctly.
As we sit on our bums, our glutes also begin to weaken. Our pelvis begins to take on a posterior pelvic tilt, further aggravating the over flexed back.
With weakened glutes, our lumbar spine begins to take over the action of the hips. When we bend over to pick things up, our hips should produce the force. When the hips are weak, the lumbar spine becomes the force producer, which is not it's job. The lumbar region is really meant to stabilize the spine.
The spine is amazing and unlike any other structure in the body. It needs to be flexible so we can move, but it also needs to be stable when asked to bear great loads. Because of the spines need for both flexibility and stability, it needs a 3-dimensional guy wiring system to create stiffness when asked to bear loads.
When this guy wire system is not trained properly, the muscles of the system become complacent, or weak and unable to do their job. (2)
This guy wire system is our core. Before we can talk about training the core, we first need to define it.
If I were to walk out my front door and ask anyone walking by what constitutes the core, the most popular answer would certainly be the abs (more likely muscles between the bottom of the rib cage to the top of the pelvis). They are correct, but only partly correct.
World renowned back expert, Dr. Stuart McGill, Professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo and author to several books and articles on back issues (www.backfitpro.com) describes the core as the muscles of the torso, and also the muscles that cross the ball and socket joints (shoulders and hips). With this definition, the core does not only include the ab muscles, but also includes the pecs, the lats, psoas (in the hips), the glutes, etc. (2) Wow! That's so much more involved than just those abs!
The purpose of the core is to create stiffness to stop movement in the spine, especially when the spine is under load. So how do we train our core to create stiffness? I will cover that next week in Part 2.
If you are feeling a bit lost or confused, come join us StrongGirl Revolution! We provide the guidance and support to make you stronger, healthier, and help you move better. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about our program.
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