While chiropractic care can provide relief and stability in the spine, many patients wonder what else they can do to help maintain a spine in good shape. One of the best ways is regular exercise, particularly exercise focusing on core stability.
Even if you struggle to get in regular exercise, you can work towards core stability and your Chiropractor will thank you! It’s as essential as drinking plenty of water, limiting how much you sit every day, or diversifying your diet for healthy gut flora. Every little bit goes a long way in helping bring you and your core to your peak state of wellness.
(Dr. Scott and his son Barrett showing their muscles in the Caribbean)
What is Core Stability?
Your core is essentially the trunk of your body: front, side, and back torso. Building stability is different than building strength, though the two can go hand in hand. The goal of building core stability isn’t to get those washboard abs come summer time, but to help the muscles work smoothly together. Just like when the trunk of a tree is strong and stable, the limbs can move with ease without disturbing the trunk. If the trunk isn’t stable, the limbs twisting about can tweak the trunk, or the trunk can distribute weight differently and cause stress on other parts. Core stability, the core’s ability to maintain a certain homeostasis, is key to preventing injury, improving posture, and increasing the body’s potential to gain strength efficiently.
Core Stability Exercises
A little bit goes a long way with core stability. While regular exercise provides countless health benefits, even if you struggle with clocking in hours at the gym, doing some of the following simple core exercises at home is very manageable.
Start on all fours, bringing your back to a flat position.
Hands should be in line with the shoulders, knees in line with the hips, tops of the feet pressing lightly into the floor (a yoga mat is a great place for this or a softer floor).
Draw your naval in towards your spine, activating your abdominals, and step both of your feet back, being sure to keep your spine in line, keep the hips level to protect the low back.
Breathe. Hold this for 30 seconds, build to 60 seconds. Add multiple sets if desired.
Modification 1: If starting off with a full-on plank is too difficult, simply drop your knees to the floor into a Half Plank, being sure to keep active in the abdominals.
Modification 2: Forearm plank (easier on the hands, wrists, shoulders, a good place to start). Still start on all fours but lower onto your forearms before stepping your feet all the way back. Be sure not to collapse into the shoulders keeping your body in line from head to heel as much as possible. Keep naval drawn in through your breathing to engage your core.
2. Side Plank
Start on your side with one leg and one hip on the ground, legs long and together.
Make sure your grounded elbow is in line with your shoulder, your other hand resting on your side.
With control, left your hips off the ground so that you make a straight line with your head and upper back by keeping your neck long, contracting your abdominals and gluteal muscles.
Breathe. Keep your hips up for 30 to 60 seconds and lower with control. Add repetitions as desired.
3. Bridge Pose
Start on your back. Tuck your shoulders blades back, nestling them closer to your spine.
Plant your feet in line with your hips.
Draw your naval towards your spine contracting your abdominal muscles.
Contract your gluteal muscles and slowly raise your hips up towards the sky. Be sure to press your weight evenly into your feet, hands, and shoulders.
Option 1: Hold this pose for 30 seconds. Breathe. For more of a stretch, draw your chest up to meet your chin, your chin up towards the sky.
Option 2: Hold for 5 seconds, lower slowly and repeat before your bottom touches the floor.
Try to get up to 20 repetitions. For more of a challenge, raise one leg in the air on each side, or add an exercise ball. Aim for 2 sets of 20 repetitions, 3 times per day.
For more suggestions, ask one of our Vancouver chiropractic providers!
(Some of you might have noticed that some of these are common poses and exercises used in yoga—it might be good to add a yoga class to your regular exercise or try one out! Whether in-home from YouTube videos or taking a class in your community, the health benefits of a regular yoga practice with exercise well exceed helping your back pain!)