Having a Strong Core Doesn’t Mean Doing a Lot of Sit Ups!

So I’m sharing some more questions that patients have had for me. This one is concerning Lower Back Pain.

Hey Danelle, I know you said I need to strengthen my core, but I do sit ups all the time. So isn’t my back strong?

Ummmm…. no!

So this is where some basic anatomy becomes useful in understanding the function of muscles and why you back still hurts even though you can do 50 situps.

Think of your back as a stack of blocks of a slinky toy – stripped away from its muscles and ligaments, the spine is essentially blocks that sit on top of each other. And that’s it. That’s the spine in a simple summary.

Now Imagine a pulley system attached to these blocks at various points – those are your muscles. Each group is specially designed to perform a certain function. Muscles are designed to create movement about the spine based on where they connect. They also serve to help protect the spine from going to extreme ranges of motion that can produce injuries. It performs this function along with ligaments, and alarm system or pain receptors in our body – to make sure that we don’t perform motions that can cause injury.

Now you have this, understand that Skeletal muscles can be divided into two major classes by function. The stabilizers and the movers.

Stabilizers are responsible for holding a joint in a specific position – like an anchor.

Movers are responsible for – just that – motion of a joint along an axis.

So when you do a situp – you are actually using your movers or the muscles responsible for flexing your spine. – the rectus abdominus. Although some scientific authors call it a global stabilizer because of it’s opposing action to the Erector spinae group, the rectus abdominus or 6 pack muscle is not directly attached to the spine.

There are few people that target their stabilizers – the multifidi, transverse abdominus, the quadratus lumborum and internal obliques when doing traditional sit ups. These both are responsible for creating a solid line or unit, instead of moving individual blocks when any sit up motion is performed.

So remember – the devil is in the details!. Having a 6 pack doesn’t mean that you have a strong core – those muscles are activated and worked in completely different ways. And if you find yourself with back pain even though you have a 6 pack, that’s may be the reason why.

There is hope though – make sure to tune into my video series for tips on how to engage and train your core on Facebook and Instagram!

Need to talk about your specific issues with your back pain? Let’s talk. Schedule a free phone consult with me by clicking here

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Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

Physical Therapist at Performance Plus Physical Therapy
Danelle Dickson received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Morgan State University in 2003, then her Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Delaware in 2007. After graduating, she earned her  Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist Certification in 2012. She is continually increasing her knowledge base with post graduate continuing education from manual based courses such as Institute of Physical Arts and St. Augustine courses. Additionally, she has also presented research at local (APTA) and international (IADMS) conferences on dancers, and has published her research with Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.

Danelle combines her 10+ year of clinical, research, and administrative experience  to produce a well rounded, patient driven experience at Performance Plus Physical Therapy. She currently works with patients with orthopedic, sports and Performing arts conditions, along with taking care of the local dance population, and mentoring local physical therapy students as a clinical instructor.
Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

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