Have you ever gone to the doctor for lower back pain and was told to either do lower back exercises or just take pain pills? If so, it is important to use a safe exercise program that is beneficial. About 45% of the US population has had lower back pain and it is the second leading cause for disability. Often, back pain is mechanical in nature. Mechanical back pain is a result of a dysfunction of the muscles/ligaments and/or misalignment of the spine and/or pelvis. Therefore, it CAN be treated with manual therapy, education, and a muscle specific exercise program. In particular, an exercise program that focuses on our core muscles.
According to pioneer physical therapist, Gregg Johnson, our core stabilizers are the transverse abdominus, pelvic floor muscles, multifidus,and deep fibers of the hip flexors and quadratus lumborum. When our body experiences pain, our body has a mechanism that “inhibits” these muscles. Once these muscles are “sleeping”, our body lacks protection from perturbations. This can lead to further injury and pain. Therefore, it is important to understand what types of muscles our body has.
Our body has two types of muscle fibers: phasic and tonic. Our phasic muscles are our “movers” for quick movements like getting out of bed and do not last long. On the other hand, our tonic muscles are for “posture” to stabilize the body. Tonic muscles are capable of working for long periods of time. Therefore, the core muscles are known as tonic muscles. Again, when the body feels pain, these tonic muscles, known as “core stabilizers”, turn off. It is therefore important to have a specific exercise program to “wake” those muscles up again.
One of the exercise techniques that Greg Johnson uses is called “phasic shakes”. In this paradigm, you choose a specific functional position with correct alignment. Next, you hold that position against gravity or with resistance to “wake up” the tonic, stabilizing, muscles. Initially, the phasic muscles may turn on. But, you hold the position until the phasic muscles get fatigued. Finally, the tonic, stabilizing muscles will turn on. When the stabilizers are working, you have met the goal of this technique.
This specific exercise technique can help improve posture, increase coordination and balance, gain body awareness and symmetry, and teach your spine and pelvis to be supple again. As you know, back pain can be very disabling. A specific exercise program that targets the right muscles may improve and help prevent injury. Thus, help your body be efficient with its movement and perform your daily functions with increase ease.