“Do I just need to strengthen my core?”

“Do I just need to strengthen my core?”

doctor katie ray chicago

Core stabilization, back pain, and spinal health

Great morning, New Day, Chicago, (and the world)!

Today I want to address something I hear a lot.  To what extent are spinal problems and back pain caused by weak “core” or weak abdominal muscles?  Couldn’t I just exercise more and get at least some of the same results as seeing a chiropractor?

On initial consideration, the argument makes sense.  Our core is meant to stabilize us, to hold us up, and to initiate movement and exercise in our limbs.  Sitting all day does nothing to strengthen the core, and actually creates a situation where other muscles activate and tighten in absence of that necessary core stability.  The result over time is tension, pain, misalignments in the spine that block the connection between the brain and the body (making a bad situation worse), poor posture, an experience of low energy, and compromised function of spinal nerves.  And on top of it all, our stomachs feel flabby!

This situation, especially when it goes on for days, weeks, months, and years has many of us focused on the flabby stomach as the cause of our problems.  And it is an easy target!  We may even find ourselves enthusiastically embracing crunches and plank-holds in our sporadic attempts to improve things.

What is the core?

But let’s look a moment at what the core actually is.  It’s not just the muscles of your abdomen.  In addition to the superficial and deep abdominal muscles, the group of muscles the work together as your “core” include muscles in the back that are in charge of spinal flexion, extension, and rotation, as well as the diaphragm, which allows us to take deep breaths.

A problem of focus

So first of all, there tends to be a problem of focus with this argument.  When most people say they need to stabilize their “core,” they are really just looking down at the flabby belly and focusing there.  Even when there is an awareness that the core muscles consist of more than just the abdominals, many people think that increasing the amount of strength in their abs is the right approach, as essentially the abs just need to play catch up with some of the already overactive muscles in the back.

If all you’re doing is trying to bring your flabby abs up to speed with your tense back muscles and hunched spine, it’s going to be a losing strategy.  The problem isn’t the relative weakness of the abs in the equation.  The problem is that the abs and the rest of the core are not working together harmoniously. What controls how your muscles, bones, (and the rest of you!) coordinate and work together in your body?  THE NERVOUS SYSTEM.

Taxation without representation?

You all probably remember from high school history learning about English colonists in New England fighting against “taxation without representation.”  Attempts to exercise the muscles without attention to how the power and communication is organized and distributed in the body is like taxation without representation!  Stay with me here.

The job of Network Spinal Analysis chiropractic care is to reorganize how your brain is connecting through the nerves so that the body can function optimally.  If you’re taxing your muscles without paying attention to the underlying unhealthy distribution pattern in the nerves, your progress will be inefficient at best, and at worst will actually cause you MORE pain and problems as you inadvertently reinforce the unhealthy pattern with your exercising!

Reorganization is key

The lives we live are inherently stressful on the spine and nervous system.  If you spend much time at all sitting at a computer, driving in a car, eating foods that are not healthy, or even paying attention to politics and “the news”– your nervous system is likely to revert to a reactive, fight of flight pattern on a regular basis.  This pattern shuts down our feeling in our bodies (only the loudest pain signals can get through), has us hunched over in our posture, not breathing deeply, and not functioning well as the nerve supply is compromised.  We may also experience low energy and just generally annoyed and distracted.

That flabby belly is part of a larger problem, a problem that is addressed through Network Spinal Analysis chiropractic care for your nervous system.  When the power and communication is reorganized, the core muscles can coordinate as they should.  We instantly feel our posture improve (and we notice it more when we’re slouching) and the core can engage.  With the optimized nervous system program running the show, you can now get better results from your attempts to strengthen and stretch, as you will be working with your brain and your body rather than against them.

And in case you’re wondering

I do have a FAVORITE all purpose strengthener for the core.  Click on the link to see our friends from Comfy fitness demonstrate!  CAUTION.  As above, if you are not in care for your nervous system, or are overdue for a visit, use caution, as your coordination will not be what it should be and you are more likely to hurt yourself.  Practice doing this exercise immediately after your sessions of Network Care to get optimal results.  Also, use a mirror to make sure you are doing the exercise as correctly as possible until you get the hang of it.

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