Why having a strong core can be the key to injury prevention.
I remember when I first joined a gym in the early 90’s, it seemed like a fashion statement to strut into the gym with protein shake in one hand and a thick leather padded waist belt in the other. They would wear it around their waist or hips and I assume they thought that it would protect their lower back from injury or stop their intestines from herniating.
I have patients that ask me regularly whether they should get a back brace to protect to help their low back condition. With the exception of severe trauma and the resulting instability, I am generally against bracing. I should clarify here when I am talking about bracing I mean heavy rigid bracing that prevents your muscles from working to support you.
Although somewhat extreme, to demonstrate my point I use the analogy of the long neck women who use rings to stretch their necks. These rings are rigid and soon the muscles of the neck weaken to the extent that if the rings are taken away, the neck could snap under the weight of the head. What people need to think about is how they can strengthen their body from the inside.
So what makes up your core? You have many muscles, superficial and deep, that make up your core. They are the muscles of your abdomen, low back, pelvis and hips. Many people think that sit-ups will do the trick. These will work mainly your ‘rectus abdominis’ and if you have close to no body fat, may give you a ‘6-pack’ but will only do a little to really strengthen your core.
When you are upright, moving and lifting, you are placing a lot of force on your spine. Your spinal joints are very susceptible to injury if they are placed under sudden, unexpected movement or loading. When you have a strong core, you are able to brace your body effectively and put less stress on the spine and its joints. Also when you exercise or physically work, a strong core will allow you to perform those activities more safely, reducing the chance of injury.
When it comes to fitness and health, we tend to devote time and effort into areas that we can see improvement and change. Spending some time to really strengthen your core may well be the most important exercise you can do. Stay tuned for some ideas on what you exercise you can do to strengthen your core.