What is Core Stability?

Core stability is traditionally used to describe the motor control of muscles around the pelvis, abdomen and low back that support and brace the lumbar spine during movement.

Exercises used to improve core stability range from gentle, controlled contractions of the deep abdominal and back muscles to high level balance and stabilization work on the ball, balance board and Pilates machines.

What is the purpose of good core stability?

Good core stability protects the spine from excessive, extraneous forces (such as shear, torsion and compression) that can result in micro-trauma, degeneration and in some cases, stress fractures.  Core stability exercises develop muscle control that maintains the spine within a safe range of movement and ideal alignment.  A good core also acts like a pillar of support, taking much of the load off the spine.

Exercises that improve core stability

Exercise programs should be tailored to each individual’s specific needs. The majority of chronic back pain patients demonstrates a loss of control and delayed activation of their core muscles.

The first step is to increase awareness of the core muscles and start with gentle, low intensity contractions at below 50% of maximal effort.  At first, muscle contractions are static and held for 5 to 10 seconds.  Gradually, limb movements are added, followed by increasing load and then more complex and difficult movements, using various equipment and apparatus.

The challenge is to keep the intensity of muscle contraction low, and maintained for longer periods.  The emphasis is on muscle control and stabilizing the spine within its safe range of movement and at its ideal alignment.

Yoga, Pilates, ball, gym exercises, Qi Gong and Tai Chi are some useful exercise forms that incorporate core stability elements. They should be used safely and appropriately.

By PHYSIONIQUE – Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation Centre, Singapore