Back pain complaints are often met with instruction to build up your core strength, and indeed this is important for better stability and protection for your back. But building core strength helps in another important way — it activates areas of the brain that can enhance stability, reduce pain, and naturally improve posture.
When many people think of the core, they think of six-pack abs we see on gym posters. But the core is basically the entire trunk of your body. The core includes the:
- Abdomen, home to the fabled six-pack.
- Back extensors, which run along your spine.
- Obliques, which wrap diagonally around your waist.
- Transverse abdominis, which allows you to suck in your stomach.
- Multifidi, which connect the vertebrae to each other.
- Quadratus lumborum, which connects your pelvis to your spine.
- Iliopsoas muscles, which connect the spine to the legs.
Many people develop chronic back pain because of a undiagnosed brain imbalance. The brain coordinates with the eyes and the inner ear to perceive where it is in relation to the environment.
When that information is incorrectly interpreted due to a brain imbalance, the brain may believe the body is falling forward or backwards. To compensate, it adjusts the posture to lean in the opposite direction of the perceived fall. This all happens without a person’s conscious awareness, and can start in infancy.
This constant over correcting creates not only bad posture, but also areas of muscular weakness and tension that affect the spine and other parts of the body, often resulting in chronic pain. These people may also find standing for a short length of time causes fatigue and back pain.
It’s also not uncommon for people with this issue to struggle with anxiety — the constant sense of falling is a source of chronic stressor that can manifest as anxiety, fatigue, and mood swings.
People often report a reduction in back pain and better posture when they take on a core strengthening program. Although strengthening and stretching the core muscles is a vital part of that rehabilitation, it also exercises the midline cerebellum, the area of the brain responsible for, among other things, movement, coordination, and posture. By repeatedly activating the core muscles, you are stimulating this part of the brain.
How do you know if brain imbalances play a role in your back pain or posture, and whether core exercises can help you?
The best way is to conduct your own field sobriety test — that’s right, the same one cops give to suspected drunk drivers. This is because being drunk also affects the cerebellum. It’s not uncommon for people with posture and back pain issues to also have poor balance due to a cerebellar issue.
A core strengthening program should emphasize good form so you don’t risk injuring yourself. It should also include attention to stability and alignment. A brain imbalance will often cause a person to stand or lie crooked when they think they are straight because the brain is incorrectly perceiving the body’s position.
Pilates is one excellent core strengthening technique that incorporates these strategies along with mindfulness and breath work, which are also great brain rehabilitators.
If you have back pain, poor balance, anxiety, mood issues, gut problems, a previous brain injury, or other symptoms, a functional neurology rehabilitation protocol may be the vital boost you need. Many times when people get stuck on a functional medicine protocol, it’s because a brain-based issue is promoting inflammation and metabolic imbalances.
Ask my office for more information on how we can help you achieve better brain health.
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