abdominals, back, Core stability, Feet, Gymn Dangers, Physiotherapy, Pilates, Shoulder

What is Core Stability?

Power and Strength are useless without Stability and Control

muscles

Big flashy muscles might be attractive but as any physio will tell you, they are next to useless without core stability.

Thankfully the health and fitness industry has now started to embrace the need for core stability, but still few people really understand the concept and what it means.

Essentially our bodies have hundreds of different muscles that all perform important tasks and the very conspicuous Abs, Glutes, Pecs, Delts and Biceps (amongst others) are there to provide strength but they are supported by a plethora of smaller, less conspicuous muscles that provide stability.

shock absorbersThese are generically referred to as the ‘Core Muscles’ and the best comparison we can think of is with automotive suspension systems.

If the ‘Strength’ muscles are the springs then the ‘Core’ muscles would be the shock absorbers.  They are usually less conspicuous, sometimes even hidden within the springs but without them your car would fall apart in no time.

The same goes for humans.  Good strength muscles alone won’t keep you running smoothly. Without good core stability you’ll be in for lube and servicing (physio) all too often and eventually you’ll be off to the scrap yard before your time!

inner_core_musclesWhen it comes to spinal stability, the most important muscles are the multifidus, pelvic floor and transversus abdominis. As shown in the image to the right, these muscles form a supportive cylinder around the spine. The transversus abdominis is like a corset around your abdomen and it sits deep underneath all the “six-pack” muscles.  It attaches the lower ribs, diaphragm and lumbar spine to the pelvis.

This ‘core’ stabilises the spine and allows the load of movement to be evenly distributed between all the intricate joints of the spine. Just like a car suspension system, it reduces the shock through the joints and thus reduces wear and tear which would, over time, lead to conditions such as arthritis or bulging discs.

personaltrainerDoing exercises like sit ups is useful to strengthen the big “six-pack” muscles, but doing this exercise without good core stability will lead to excessive load through the joints of the spine and can lead to injury of the spine.

So in that respect it is important to activate and strengthen the core before you start on a regime of strength building.

 

Muscles of the posterior shoulderAnother example is the shoulder. The “delts”, “lats”, “pecs” and “biceps” look fabulous but they are not the stabilisers of the shoulder.

Over training of these without attention to the deeper, core stabilisers of the shoulder can result in injury as a result of an increased load being put through the system without the appropriate “suspension”, so to speak.

See our blog on ‘Shoulder Stability’ for a series of simple exercises to build core shoulder stability.

Each area of the body  has a “core” component.

Feet have intrinsic muscles that operate in balancing.

Ankles rely on hip and foot stabilisers for control.

Knees similarly need good hips and feet to be protected.

and even Necks have a deep system of muscles that control movement.

In essence, the core muscles play a crucial a role in overall well being and strength. Without the stability and control provided by the deeper core muscles, the power and strength gained from training is useless!!

Stay tuned as our series of CORE STABILITY blogs will introduce the specifics of core training for different parts of the body and the common areas of overloading we see in fitness regimes!

Post by Catherine Stephens (B.App.Sc Physio) and Angus Tadman (B.App.Sc Physio Hons I)

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Feet, Lifestyle, Physiotherapy

High Heels – The Pain for the Gain

High-heeled modelLove them or loathe them high heels have a marked effect on how a woman stands and moves and most men will know that these effects can often be quite alluring.

High heels:-

  • Increase the curvature of the calf improving muscle definition and in doing so enhance the slimness of the ankle
  • By lifting the heel the buttock muscles have to work harder and in doing so appear more pert.
  • The shift in weight means the chest is pushed forwards thereby enhancing breast lines.
  • The general awkwardness of the revised gait means that swings, sways and jiggles are introduced that tend to attract extra attention.

Xray of High HeelsHOWEVER!!  . . .

as can be seen in the X-ray of a foot in high heels, there are other factors to consider that not only cause pain during and after wearing, but can also cause long term damage.

  • Metatarsel pressureThe pressure on the Metatarsals  (the long bones just behind the toes or balls of the feet) is increased enormously. This increased pressure increases the risk of the development of a ‘Morton’s Neuroma’, (nerve aggravation between the metatarsals) which develops into a nerve growth.
  • Toe Squash in high heelsIf you compare the ultimate healthy state of barefeet it is easy to see how the toes are  pushed together to fit into the ‘glamorous’ narrow shoe, increasing the likelihood of Bunion formation ( Hallus valgus) and an overall cramping and deformation of the foot results.
  • Achilles tendonThe Achilles Tendon is shortened and prolonged wearing will cause permanent change which in turn changes the foot ankle dynamics and increase risk of ankle sprain and tendon damage.
  • The increased arch often affects the lower spine, increasing joint pressure that can cause episodes of back pain and instability.

So…. a physio’s advice (who has been known to wear high heels herself from time to time)  is to keep the really high heels for very special occasions!   Choose lower heels when you can. Keep this in mind when shopping girls!!

After a night in heels spend a few days in flats – or even barefeet if you can.

If heels are part  of the work attire, wear flats to and from work and slip on the glam’ professional look only when necessary.

Girls… remember it was a man who designed high heels and back in the times when men did wear heels they were not 15cm high and definitely not stilettos but wedges which are a more stable option!!!

Post by Catherine Stephens B. App Sc (Physio) MAPA.

Feet, Physiotherapy, Stability

The foot – an amazing piece of machinery !

Happy feetWe stand, run, jump, hop & dance, all on our feet and rarely give them any thought until we feel pain or feel unsteady!

Our feet are the basis of our posture and give us most of the feedback we need to balance!

Bones of the footSo as upright animals we rely totally upon our feet, yet there they are, down there, out of sight, out of mind while many, many small muscles do their stabilising jobs.

But have you ever thought what’s involved in simply standing on your feet?

Here’s a simple exercise to highlight just one of the stabilising muscles.  Give this a try.

Stand with feet hip width apart.

Two feetTry to stretch you toes out straight and lean slightly forward so the tips of your toes have a small amount of weight on them but you haven’t lifted the heel.

Can you feel the muscles in the sole working? These are the muscles designed to support our arches and I bet this is the first time you’ve been aware of them !

But then our world is mostly flat and safe and we have no need to be in a position of preparation for change and as a result our feet get really lazy.

I like to think of our feet having a TRIPOD OF STABILITY.

  • The tip of the big toe
  • The base of the little toe and
  • The heel

Try standing with weight evenly distributed between these three points and you will unwittingly turn on a whole range of muscles in your foot, thigh, buttock and back.

Bare feet in grassStrong feet – the basis of good posture – a basis of good health.

Post by Catherine Stephens B. App Sc (Physio) MAPA.