Core Stability; is it more than just protecting your lower back?

With the increase in the use of the word “core stability” between patients’, personal trainers’, Osteopaths’, physiotherapists’ as well as other allied health professionals we are seeing more and more people use the word without fully understanding it. The term ‘Core stability” first came about around the 1970’s and it was aimed at dancers but has since risen to popularity as an effective way to improve your flexibility and strength.  Over the past few weeks I have seen patients come in to the Hobsons Bay Health Group saying that they have been told “they have a weak core” or “your core can’t stabilise properly” and it is the reason they are suffering from their back pain. This is not always true with research finding that a deficit in timing of contraction from the core can lead to injuries associated with the lumbar spine and sacroiliac joint (1).

What is the core?

What is the Core? The core is essentially the part that connects our legs and our arms. It is also referred to as our ‘trunk’. The muscles that make up our core are the Transverse Abdominus, pelvic floor, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominus (6 pack muscle) as well as bunch of smaller muscles located around the spine.

what are the core muscles


It is important that we do have a strong and efficient core to protect our backs (primarily lower back) from injury and potential pain. But our core is so much more than just a stabilizer of our spine; it functions as a link between our upper and lower extremities. It aids with force transmission, so you can imagine if we can’t stabilize our ‘core’ than when we need to produce a powerful movement such as a tackle or trying to sprint away from an opponent for the game winning goal we will be leaking energy and instead of using the energy we generate to produce power our body absorbs this and this is when we see injury occur.

From what the research tells us is that the core is more than just a stabilizer of the spine, it aids with;

  • Deficits in core motor control do not only predispose of us to lower back pain, but can also increase our risk injuries to our lower extremity.
  • Trunk proprioception, displacement of the trunk, trunk perturbation (getting moved by external force i.e. push from someone) as well as a history of lower back pain had a strong link with knee ligament injuries.
  • Knee ligament injuries – specifically those variables mentioned above were prevalent in female athletes that had risk factors for ACL injury. Where as having a history of lower back pain was the only relevant predictive value in ACL injuries for males.

How do we assess core stability?

We go through 3 phases to assess an individual’s core competency, those phases are:

  • Phase 1 Movement efficiency – We perform a movement/physical screen, this is used to identify the individuals’ capacity to move through different ranges of motion in a controlled manner.
  • Phase 2 Local Core capacity – In this phase we use common exercises such as a plank, single leg plank, as well as a side plank to assess the local abdominal musculature and the ability of the individual to hold positions for a certain amount of time.
  • Phase 3 Global core capacity – This is looking at how we integrate our trunk into the bigger picture. We use exercises that include our legs and trunk, arms and trunk or all 3 parts working together. Some of these exercises include woodchop (high or low), pallof press as well as a farmers walk or suitcase carry.

How Hobsons Bay Health Group can help?

At Hobsons Bay Health Group we specialise in assessment, diagnosis, treatment and management to work out the best course of action for our patients. We are able to do this via;

  • Traditional Osteopathy examinations to the lower back as well as hips and other regions of the body.
  • Strength Testing/movement screening to identify any strength/movement discrepancies that may be causing your injury or pain.

Next our treatment process achieves pain relief in the shortest amount of time by using hands on Osteopathy techniques such as soft tissue massage, joint manipulation, articulation and stretching techniques. This may include the use of the True Stretch system as well as Dry Needling and Taping techniques.

Finally, your management plan will involve an individualised management plan to first of all remove any pain of dysfunction you may have but also a corrective exercises program to build your strength and capacity (muscle and tendon strength, stamina, specific flexibility) to minimise your injury of risk of injury.

For any help in regards to any injuries you may be suffering from yourself or you have any questions relating to any other injuries feel free to get in touch via email at info@hobsonsbayhealthgroup.com.au or book online with you allied health practitioner.

Reference –

  1. Mehta, R., Cannella, M., Smith, S. S., & Silfies, S. P. (2010). Altered Trunk Motor Planning in Patients with Nonspecific Low Back Pain. Journal of Motor Behavior, 42(2), 135-144.
  2. Zazulak, B. T., Hewett, T. E., Reeves, N. P., Goldberg, B., & Cholewicki, J. (2007). Deficits in Neuromuscular Control of the Trunk Predict Knee Injury Risk. The American Journal of Sports Medicine,35(7), 1123-1130