AZ Physical Therapy: Deep Core Engagement – What is it?

Mar 19, 2015

Janene Alcantar

by Janene Alcantar
PT, DPT | Surprise Location

Janene Alcantar, PT, DPT, is an AZ physical therapy expert located at our Surprise, AZ facility. She is here to explain what deep core muscles are and how to engage them in order to help support a healthy body:
What does it mean for your physical therapist to engage your deep core? Though frequently taught, the concept is often misunderstood by professionals throughout the industry.
The deep core involves the diaphragm, pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, and multifidus muscle. These muscles work together to provide support for your entire body. If one is overactive or underactive, engaged incorrectly, or engaged at the wrong time, dysfunction can result.
If you have pain trying to maintain correct posture throughout the course of the day, you may have dysfunction in your core muscles. For example, sitting with poor posture at a desk for extended periods of time can reduce your core muscle strength. Repetitive movements performed incorrectly throughout the day, or no use of the muscles at all, can cause major problems.
Over time, people may lose the ability to engage their deep core muscles, which is essential for proper back function. Fortunately, trained physical therapists can help patients return function to these muscles.
The first crucial step in joining a core strengthening program is proper assessment. Your physical therapist will address your individual needs and implement a personalized program. Rehabilitating the core muscles requires training since they need to not only engage correctly but improve their endurance.
Women and men quickly lose strength in these muscles as our movement patterns change, but patients can always be taught lifting mechanics and are encouraged to maintain an upright posture for strengthening.
As a trained professional, I can help you rehabilitate weak core muscles. I also know where issues can arise. Engaging deep core muscles does not mean tightening them as hard as possible. You shouldn’t feel tension in your ribs or into the gluteal region at any point. Even though the diaphragm is involved in exercises, you should still be able to speak and breathe as deep core muscles are activated.
For example, one of the best positions for core strengthening involves lying on your back with your knees bent. Next, place your fingers towards the middle on the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS), and as you breathe out perform a Kegel contraction. You can feel a Kegel contraction by squeezing the muscles of the pelvic floor as if you were stopping a flow of pee. You should feel the lower abdominal region become tight. Relax after holding the position for five seconds.
It can be tricky and the Kegel exercise can be performed incorrectly. The key is to pull the muscles up. Many will bear down to feel a contraction in this region. Additionally, patients have to pull their bellies in, rather than out, when engaging the transverse abdominis muscle. A physical therapist can teach you many core strengthening exercises that can be incorporated into an individualized exercise program.
Many have never properly engaged their deep core muscles, or have lost control, either due to pregnancy or poor awareness. With the assistance of a trained professional, you could see your posture and overall core stamina increase with physical therapy.
Our experts at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy know how to help you! If you have questions about chronic back pain, your posture or deep core-strengthening, make an appointment today! To learn more about AZ physical therapy at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy, and what our certified specialists can do for you, check out the Foothills blog.

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