Quote: “In order to be wealthy, you must be healthy”
Is your weak transversus adominis (TrA) muscle causing you lower back pain (LBP)?
Unfortunately 80% of Americans will have severe/mild acute or chronic low back pain at some point in their lives. Numerous studies and research have correlated lack of activation in the transversus abdominal muscle can contribute to low back pain. Over the years many muscles of the trunk have been studied in relation to low back pain. This has been based on insufficiency of muscle function which leads to stress of the joints and ligaments of the spine. But, despite considerable effort, few if any have a strong correlation to muscular strength and endurance have put forth a discernible and consistent abnormality of trunk muscle function in individuals with LBP. Although many muscles of the trunk are capable of contributing to the stabilization and protection of the lumbar spine recent studies have suggested that the transversus abdominals (TrA) may be essential in reducing or preventing LBP. This is further evident in the empirical evidence in the field where individuals such as power lifters/bodybuilders with strong stomach/back muscles (erector spinae, latissmus dorsi, rectus abdominis etc.) can still exhibit low back strains, pulls and discomfort if there TrA is not firing properly.
The TrA is a large corset internal stomach muscle running horizontally around the abdomen, attaching via the thoracolumbar fascia to the transverse processes of each lumbar vertebrae (wraps around your stomach and back internally). It is theorized that the contraction of the TrA may enhance stabilization of the spine. The stability of the spine is controlled by a variety of factors by the central nervous system. Deep trunk muscles like the TrA, multifidus and the lower fibers of the oblique internus abdominis, diaphragm all activate before limb or trunk motion. This co-contraction helps set up spinal stability to prevent muscular strains, pulls etc. It may also help play a crucial role in activating stability in the sacroiliac joint by a bracing action with the abdominal muscles. The complexities of the physiological forces and actions that transpire during moving are beyond the scope of this newsletter. However, the importance of the sometimes forgotten TrA is not! The TrA can be cued internally by asking yourself to draw your navel in towards your spine before performing most or certain exercises. Simply by pulling your belly button in automatically sets up that TrA muscle by triggering it into action and all its helper muscles.
Doing lots of stomach crunches, reverse crunches, side crunches are all great for the larger or more aesthetically seen abdominal muscles called the rectus abdominis or "6 pack". However, these exercises can be performed without ever activating the TrA if your TrA is weak or not firing properly.
Exercises that more specially target the TrA and all its deep internal muscles are core exercises like bridges, not allowing your butt to slope at all while keeping your navel pulled back (plank, side plank), on floor then progressing to on a ball or exercises on the ball, tiny rotations, tiny posterior rotations of the hip to gain strength against a anterior pelvic tilt (sloping forward pelvis), single leg squats, lateral side steps with band to target gluteus (butt muscles), diagonal chops for internal/external oblique's. Simply asking yourself to draw in your belly button can be of minimal effort with significant dividends to keeping a healthy back.
By; J.D. Reber M.S. & B.S. Exercise Science and health promotion, CSCS & NASM-CPT
References: 1.Hungerford B, Gilleard W, Hodges P. Evidence of Altered lumbopelvic muscle recruitment in the presence of sacroiliac joint pain. Spine. 2003: Vol 28; 1593-1600 2. 2. Hodges W, Richardson C A. Inefficient muscular stabilization of the lumbar spine associated with low back pain: A motor control evaluation of transversus abdominis. Spine. 1996: Vol 21; 2640-2650.
Remember, eat healthy and live wealthy!
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