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Stabilizing the Core to Eliminate Low-Back Pain
Author: Rich Lauro
This is the first article of a series of articles to follow. In this article I will be addressing one of the main core stabilizing muscles of the lumbar spine and its role in back pain, as well as specific exercises that should be performed to prevent and recover faster from your back pain. You should make these exercises part of your everyday routine, just like brushing your teeth.
Words of wisdom before performing these exercises:
Consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program or if you're experiencing radiating pain.
Don't stop your exercise program just because your back feels better. Continue exercising to keep your back pain from returning.
Where most rehabilitation programs fail is in the selection and repetitions they prescribe to their patients. People with weak back muscles should not only strengthen these muscles but should concentrate on building muscle endurance since these muscles are at work all day long.
Consider working with a Muscle Activation Technique Therapist to identify and correct muscular imbalances and to make sure all muscles are functioning properly.
Transverse Abdominal (TVA) is a very important stabilizer of the low-back. It is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and the only one that runs horizontal. It activates prior to the muscles of the hips and thorax. When contracted it flattens the abdominal wall and compresses the viscera. The TVA is required for all integrated movements. If the TVA is weak it will allow bulging of the anterior abdominal wall increasing lordosis in the low-back and will also create a lateral bulge in (forward bending) or extension (back bending).
Researchers used EMG activity to identify the timing of the TVA and the multifidus contraction, compared to other abdominal muscles, during movement of the upper limbs in response to visual stimuli. They found that, in subjects without lower back pain, the first active muscle was the transverse abdominis contracting prior to the upper limb. The model they developed "identified a consistent dysfunction of transverse abdominis in people with low-back pain.
Isometric Exercises Explained:
Before we get into the specific exercises for the TVA I would like to explain why isometric exercises are so important.
In order to activate the TVA muscle fibers or any other muscle for that matter, a weak muscle must first be "jump started" using MAT Therapy or by using isometric exercises before you can strengthen it through exercise. If a weak muscle is not first jump started, then the body is forced to compensate and use other muscles to perform the desired movement.
Isometric exercises solve several problems that Rehab programs and weight lifting activities do not solve:
Problem #1: A weak muscle will not contract with most strengthening exercises because dominant muscles will compensate for weak muscles.
Problem #2: When the body senses instability in the joint, it will tighten up to protect the joint. Stretching a tight muscle will only create a temporary release and could result in a more vulnerable joint.
Problem #3: Muscle imbalances may occur through repetitive use of the same muscle, or through injury, causing the body to go into "protective" mode.
When performing isometric exercise contractions, the contraction should be held for 6 seconds and repeated 6 times. This allows time for peek tension to develop and metabolic changes to occur in the muscle. The muscle should be placed in its shorthend position. In this position the muscle is at its weakest. The intensity of each isometric contraction should increase. By the 6th contraction, greater range of motion and neural input should occur. For more information on isometric exercises visit www.sports-injury-solutions.com
Exercises for the TVA
This exercise is critical in re-estabilishing good communication between the brain and the key stabilizer muscles (TVA). Progressing to advanced abdominal exercises when your body is not prepared will only magnify muscular imbalances that can cause injury and pain.
Lie on your back and cross your left leg over right leg. Your left heel should be next to the right knee. Rotate right approx 30 degrees your left hip will come off the ground several inches. Push knee into the ball or wall 6 times for 6 seconds. Start lightly and increase pressure each time. If you feel cramping in the inner thigh you are pressing too hard. This exercise will activate the TVA and should be followed up by regular abdominal exercises.
To learn more about MAT Techniques and how to prevent and recover faster from your sports injury Visit www.sports-injury-solutions.com or call 540-840-3208 to get your FREE REPORT "The Secret To Eliminating Muscle and Joint Pain".
Richard Lauro is a Certified Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) therapist and one of the industries top fitness experts. The Owner of Fitness Solutions Inc.; Resistance Training Specialist; (AAHFRP) Medical Exercise And Post Rehab Specialist; American Council on Exercise; Idea Member - International Fitness Professionals Organization; Health and Fitness Writer for the Community Voice Newspaper. 13 years experience in the Health and Fitness field.