Spinal Stability for Your Every Day

An understanding of your body's core is a topic of great importance.  Specifically, the ability of that core to maintain enough stability to allow the rest of your body proper movement capability. A mentor of mine, Kelly Starrett (Doctor of Physical Therapy), likens the body to a car. He talks about the necessity to create a "stiff chassis" (a stable spine) so that the "wheels can move fast" (the arms and legs are able to do their work).  Another way of putting this would be in the words of Craig Liebenson (Doctor of Chiropractic) who preaches the concept of creating "proximal stability in order to achieve distal mobility".

Generally, when we think of doing core training, we think of endless crunches and maybe a few planks here and there.  The problem with that is in those instances we are creating dominance in certain muscles and neglecting other core muscles all together. When we talk about "core training", let us get better at using all the muscles of the core. Instead of focusing heavily on our "six-pack muscles" to dynamically force the spine into odd contortions, let us teach our core to do what it was really meant to do - reflexively stabilize and protect the spine.

One of those very important and often neglected core muscles is your diaphragm.  A report in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy stresses the importance of the diaphragm (your breathing organ) in a healthy spine. Researchers found that patients who suffered from low back pain had an abnormal position of their diaphragm.

Okay, you get it. Stop doing crunches and start feeling/using all these other core muscles. How about a quick and easy routine each day to get you up and going with a strong an durable body?

Give yourself and extra 2-4 minutes each morning before you get out of bed. No, that doesn't mean hitting the snooze button. What you want to do is simple:

  • Lying on your back, bend your knees and bring your feet a little closer to your butt so that your low back is comfortable.
  • Place one hand over your belly button and the other over your chest. Allow your shoulders to be relaxed into your sleeping surface and feel yourself relax your neck and jaw muscles. Be emotionally and physically open to a better and more healthful breathing pattern.
  • For the next 25 calm, deep breaths, breathe in a way that your hand over your stomach is the one that rises for the first two thirds of the breath in. Once you feel like your stomach and sides are fully filled, finish the inhalation with a slight chest rise.

The goal here is to get the focus on the diaphragm and deep core muscles and not on the scalene and pectoral muscles, common places for people to use during improper breathing.

This is an extremely basic yet beneficial way to begin implementing strength and stability in your deep core muscles. Once you have mastered this we can begin to implement more advanced core stabilization and glute activation exercises. Make sure to ask about them at your next appointment!

Be well.

Written by: Mitchell Rasmussen, Functional Movement Specialist
Edited by: Hannah Steinmetz, D.C.