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How's Your Trunk (1)

The ‘How’s Your Trunk?’ Series Part 1

Over the coming weeks we are going to delve deeper into what your spine needs for beautiful movement and how to get it. This series will help explain why so many of us have back pain and more importantly what can be done to help it if not get rid of it! So stay tuned for our weekly update and enjoy. Knowledge is power they say!

Who likes to plank? Come on admit it! I want to know why you want to do it? Is it because you have read that it will help you with your chosen sport or hobby? I will ask you, how does holding your body very braced and static help you move better? Moving better is what people go to see Physio’s for. Pain can be an issue too but that will always be associated with movement problems so lets kill two birds with one stone.

Often people come to see us and say they need more abs, they have a weak “core” or they feel better “core stability” will get rid of their back pain. They also feel it is the reason they can’t run / row / garden as well or even balance on one leg.

The amount of things you guys feel are caused by having poor “core stability” is remarkable. Your beliefs about your body and what it needs has a huge impact on how we can best help you achieve your goals.

To help clarify things, we firstly need to be clear about what “core stability” actually means. Our language as health professionals is so important on this be it Physio, GP, Consultant, Personal Trainer, Yoga teacher, Pilates instructor to name a few.

So, what does stability mean? There are so many definitions on the internet. Often when in the context of back or pelvic pain, the term “instability” or “unstable” can be very concerning terms! If you read or hear that your spine is “inherently unstable”, you would want to keep it very still and not move it, wouldn’t you! You’d want to protect, brace and guard it. This however is not great for movement.

In your back, the ligaments and vertebral bones are one component of what gives you stability in your spine. They are the passive system that controls the movement at the extremes / end ranges. Most of our movement occurs in what we call the neutral zone, the middle range. In this range movement is controlled by an active system of muscles co-ordinated by the nervous system. Our body needs both passive and active control systems to keep us moving well.

So, in summary, our spine needs two types of control systems. One that involves the bones and ligaments and another involving the nervous system and the muscles. Combined, and when working well like an orchestra they give us beautiful movement across a big range under varying amounts of load.

This week, your “One Thing” to think about is how you use your spine. Do you let it move and bend or do you keep it more rigid and braced? Are you trying to protect it subconsciously because it is sore and you don’t want to make it worse? Are there certain regions of your spine that don’t move as well as others?

Let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you. Next week we will discuss different ideas about what “core stability” is. Watch this space!