If I hear this one more time, I’m going to scream (quietly)…Welcome to the Modern Fundamentals of Chiropractic (MFoC), a series that gets into the basic physiology of why chiropractic works, and why it should matter to every person on the planet.
In this first edition, we’re taking on the sacred modern health care and fitness idea that your core is weak in order to make a single important point: WITHOUT STIMULI, WE DIE. Trust me, it will all come together by the end.
Keep in mind that this is a basic intro of some key concepts in neurophysiology; it’s not a textbook or a research paper. The point is edutainment and a little bit of enlightenment.
If I hear this one more time, I’m going to scream (quietly)
Does this sound familiar?
- I feel like I just need to strengthen my core
- My doctor told me I should be working on my core
- My therapist is focusing on my core
- I’ve got a weak core
- It’s a problem with my core
This word “core” has so much power over us in health care and the exercise industry that it’s turned us into zombies.
If you have a problem with minor pain, major pain, sometimes pain, everyday pain – in and around the low back or pelvis, you: have heard one of these phrases, or you have said one of these phrases, and you have probably (through no fault of your own) blamed a complex neurological/mechanical/lifestyle problem on the fact that you have a weak core…
And you’d be right. But only partly right.
So let’s briefly explore why our limited understanding of the core is making us a little bit silly, and how that can teach us a very, very important fact about how how our bodies work that we truly need to know.
What is our core, anyway? Why does it matter?
First, what do people really mean when they say “core.”
For most people who haven’t engaged in muscle building exercise, they mean “I’m weak somewhere around my midsection.”
And that’s probably accurate.
For people who have lifted weights, or done Pilates or Yoga, or done some other calisthenics, the core means
The superficial abdominal muscles
The deep abdominal muscles
The muscles of the lower back
The muscles of the hip
And if you’re dealing with a serious core fan, they know it means —
The muscles of the pelvic floor.
The the big idea behind the need to make the core strong is this: Our everyday life of sitting and lack of physical activity makes the core (all of the above muscles) weak, and that’s why we have pain.
Logically what this weakness requires is activity to make it strong — and VOILA! the pain will go away. And as evidence that this makes sense, we have the experience of millions of people who had chronic pain, they started working out, and LO and BEHOLD! Their pain started going away.
Clearly the core was weak. And then it became strong. And that’s what happened.
Or did it?
Or are we only partly right and leaving out some important information that we need to really understand how health really works…
The truth about the core hurts
Because here’s the whole truth.
Yes, the core may be “weak.”
But what we really mean is this:
I cannot turn my core muscles on —
or sustain their contraction —
because my brain has lost control of the ability to activate fibers in some or all of the above muscles —
due to a loss of sensation and perception coming from my spine and pelvis–
And this loss of sensation and perception —
Has distorted my brain’s understanding of my low back/spine position —
creating pain, a complex sensation I feel in my brain
This is a more accurate understanding that allows us to identify the other part of “the core” problem…
Loss of sensation and/or distorted perception is much more of a problem than just weak muscles…It’s a system wide issue that distorts how all muscles are firing.
Which is why I have patients with six-pack abs that still have pain and a distorted posture…And I have patients without chiseled midsections…who are pain free, despite their weak core.
So, here it is…the Life In Alignment Fundamentals Modern Fundamentals of Chiropractic #1:
We rely on sensation and perception to live and function. Sensation always comes before action. We are sensory beings. We are constantly responding to stimuli.
Without stimuli we die.
The brain relies on movement of the spinal joints to have 100% sensation of the body and its position (and some of the most important are in the neck!).
Without that information we get dysfunction. Which is why a chiropractic adjustment of the pelvis has been demonstrated to instantly improve activation of core musculature, improving “weakness” without a minute of exercise.
Strengthening the core is important. Removing the sources of brain/body confusion is essential to help that core balance and fire completely.
And this “sensory first” principle can be used to help us empower ourselves and understand where and how our health and wellness may be breaking down.
Here are two short videos that will help you understand the importance of the sensory first principle.
The first video dives into information regarding your body’s sensory information and your ability to activate your core musculature:
Feed forward activation and why your core may have a “sensory problem” and not just weakness
The second video gets into more details on the small muscles of the spine and how they talk to the brain, and why its important.
Your brain relies on “sensory position” information from your spine
In part two of this series we will learn how your brain is probably lying to you, and how a super quiet room in Minnesota can show us why this mis-perception matters to people with health problems, or those who are interested in maximizing the potential of their sports performance.