Neck & Spine
“I would just like to say thank you very much for helping me with my back issues and that you were all very pleasant and made me feel relaxed about the journey I’m going to have to have on my back. It is very appreciated and thank you so much.” — Jennifer D.
We all know that toned muscles are a sign of physical fitness, but a strong core does much more than earn you bragging rights at the gym. It can help protect the spine, too.
Your core is made up of muscles between your diaphragm and glutes that work together to support your body — and protect your spine from injury. These muscles are located deep in your body and connect to the spine and the pelvis to provide stability for the rest of your body.
Understanding the connection between your core and your spine, including what injuries can occur when your core is weak and what you can do to strengthen it, can help keep your spine healthy.
The spine is a complex organ with many facets, including multiple joints and segments. Each segment of the spine contains a disc and joints that act as the primary stabilizers of the spine. However, the spine relies on additional support from ligaments, tendons and muscles located in your core for stabilization.
Some of the muscles in your core surround your spine, helping to keep it stable. If these muscles are strong, they prevent the spine from moving in abnormal ways that can potentially cause injury.
Lack of core strength can lead to stress or strain of the back muscles, resulting in temporary pain and inability to function normally. Repetitive stresses over a period of time may injure the underlying spinal structure (such as the disc and joints), which can lead to the development of premature arthritis and other spine issues.
While it can be hard to predict which movements can cause spinal injury in a person with weak core muscles, people who experience repetitive vibrational effects on the spine — such as jackhammer operators or truck drivers — may be especially at risk. Heavy lifting can also be abnormally stressful for the spine, meaning it has the potential to cause spinal injury.
When it comes to strengthening your core to protect your spine, the foundation is something you might be doing anyway — aerobic exercise. Just by doing activities like walking, running or swimming for 30 to 40 minutes at least three times a week, you’re building strength in your core (and protecting your spine in the process). Aerobic exercise also increases the flow of blood and nutrients to the soft tissues in the back, reducing stiffness and improving healing.
Isometric exercises, meaning those that strengthen the muscle without changing the angle of the spine, are also good for your core and spine. Plank exercises, for example, can help strengthen your abdominal musculature, which is attached to the paraspinal musculature in your back.
In general, it’s a good idea to avoid exercises that involve twisting or otherwise stressing the spine, and you should always listen to your body — if an exercise hurts your back, stop doing it.
Back extension exercises are good for strengthening the core, for example, but you should be aware that if something is hurting, then you may need to do them a different way to prevent further injury.
Aside from exercise, maintaining a healthy weight can protect your spine by ensuring that your center of gravity stays close to your spine, keeping pressure off of it. And though it’s best if your own muscles do the work of protecting your spine from injury, tools such as belly bands during pregnancy or weight-lifting belts can provide a short-term solution.
Even if you follow steps to help protect your spine, injuries can still happen. When they do, schedule an appointment with Dr. Derek Snook at JIS Orthopedics! Scheduling an appointment earlier can help shorten your recovery and get you back to the thins you love. We want to help you live without limits!