Spine Stabilization

Many times, clients are referred to physical therapy for “spine stabilization” or “core strengthening” to help you with conditions causing lower back pain.  Understanding what spine stabilization is and how it works will help you more effectively engage the RIGHT muscles to support your Lumbar Spine.

When pain is felt in the spine, regardless of the exact pathology, muscles around the spine will not work well to support, unload and protect the joints of the spine.   When simple tasks such as raising your arm or leg occur, back muscles immediately adjacent to your spine (called multifidus) and the deepest layer of the abdominals (called transverses abdominus) contract before your arm/ leg muscles.  This is to ensure that the stress of lifting the arm or leg (or any other activity) does not put unwanted stress on the spinal joints and discs.  People that have low back pain do not have good control in using these muscles to support the spine.  These “stabilizing muscles” do not contract quick enough and the movements of the arms, legs and trunk will put more/unwanted stress on the joints of the spine.  This will lead to additional injury, pain and subsequent muscle inhibition.  As result, this pain and muscle inhibition cycle will continue.

The good news: With proper treatment and as low back pain subsides, these “stabilizing muscles” can be retrained to do the proper task.  Physical therapists can teach clients “stabilization exercises”, which focus on having patients learn (or re-learn) the correct firing mechanism and sequence for these muscles.  It is important to note that spinal stabilization is NOT about strength, but rather “having the right muscles doing the right work at the right time.”  Once a client is able to fire the correct muscles at the correct time, they will be progressed by their physical therapist to functional tasks such as squatting, lifting or bending.  These activities become easier knowing that the stabilization muscles are protecting and helping share the load on the spine.

Learning spinal stabilization exercises in the beginning is difficult.  You need to make sure the RIGHT muscles are being trained.  At Direct Physical Therapy, Lance and Scott can help teach you how to stabilize your spine through these exercises and techniques.  For more information or a consultation, call (541) 482-5525 or visit www.directphysicaltherapy.net.  Move Forward!