Understanding Core Strength and What to do About It
“Core Strength”… You’ve seen these words on billboards advertising gym memberships, on the latest health-trend manifestos, and on the front page of your fitness magazine. You’ve even heard your close friends and family members chatting about the value of core strength. And yet, you’re not really sure what it is, why it’s important, or why it should even matter to you. The good news is, this post is about to enlighten you. We’re going to give you the ins-and-outs of core strength, its necessity, and what it really means for your health.
For most of us, the idea of core strength is firmly rooted in an image of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger – 6-packs and plenty of muscle. Sure, this is some of what it means to have good core strength, but thankfully, having a strong core doesn’t mean we have to become body builders. Core strength is about a lot more than washboard abs – it’s about strong muscles in your torso, back, and upper legs, that is, muscles that are robust enough to support and maintain a healthy spine and bone structure. So, while it’s an added bonus to develop a great midriff, having strong core muscles contributes to your overall health – not just appearance – in a myriad of ways.
Think about this for a second: have you ever had back pain or suffered from pelvic pain? This type of discomfort may well have to do with weakness in your core muscles. Because these muscles ensure the stability and mobility of the joints and spinal structure, weakness or stiffness may disrupt optimal body function, thereby leading to pain which can sometimes be chronic. Not only that, but strong core muscles actually prevent injury. Why? Because they strengthen and support the skeletal structure, thereby reducing the risk of damage. By contrast, weak core muscles may have a large impact on posture, pelvic health, possible injury, athletic ability, energy, and endurance, not to mention mobility and flexibility.
It’s clear, then, that core strength is integral to health, but as with most things in life, it’s important to understand the journey is just as important as the result. Some people jump straight into a vigorous, damaging core-strength routine, never consulting a professional and just assuming that “harder and faster” means “better”. Sadly, most of these people do more harm than good, and far from strengthening their core muscles, their overambitious routines actually cause overcompensation, misalignment, stress, and ultimately, pain. It is absolutely essential that core strength training be undertaken with a solid understanding of your body, your particular set of needs, and your personal parameters.
All in all, though, having strong core muscles is both essential in the prevention of injury and in the elimination of various forms of pain. That having been said, we understand that getting into a habit of developing strong core muscles in, perhaps, a little easier said than done. Some people don’t have time for hours in the gym, and others might be daunted by the idea of sit-ups or crunches. Don’t worry – there are safe, effective, and easy ways of increasing your core strength and alleviating your pain, right now. Take a look:
Core Strength Exercises
Remember, start moderately and work your way up to more intense routines. Muscles take time to strengthen, so give them the space they need to build in a strong and lasting manner – in other words, avoid injuries by practicing patience.
Physical therapy is by far the best, most effective, safest, and fastest way of increasing your core strength and eradicating pain. A hands-on, professional therapist will not only alleviate your pain by treating the root cause of the problem, but he/she will ensure that you maintain a pain-free life by giving you the tools to do so. In other words, physical therapy offers you tailor-made exercises designed to eradicate your pain, strengthen your core, and help you enjoy and maintain the life you deserve. Physical therapy isn’t a temporary solution, rather, it is a permanent and safe answer to your pain: by giving you professional, effective, customized, life-changing care, physical therapy is the best, most effective way to increase core strength and help you live the life you were meant to.
Don’t underestimate the value of core strength both in the eradication of pain and in the maintenance of a pain-free life. Call us today for more information about how we can help you – we look forward to hearing from you.
For many of us, exercise is more than a general walk in the park. In reality, it’s a part of who we are, and our dedication to training programs, fitness, and health, goes above and beyond. From running, to swimming, to CrossFit, and to hiking, we just love to do it. Every day we push ourselves harder – we run faster, swim further, and lift more. Yet while our daily habits may seem outwardly healthy, we may actually be doing ourselves harm in the long run. Why? Well, for some of us the exercise routines we’ve come to love have turned from ‘healthy’ to ‘unbalanced’. In other words, as we’ve pushed ourselves on the court, in the pool, or on the bike, we’ve lost track of our personal limits - we’ve fallen prey to what is generally called Overuse Training Syndrome. Now, if the name intimidates you, don’t fear. In this post, we discuss the causes and effects of OTS and we give you advice on how to get back in the right gear.
Overuse Training Syndrome is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: it occurs when the body is pushed too far during exercise and/or training – over and above its limits – thereby causing it to lose its ability to recover in a sustainable and safe way. For obvious reasons, this wreaks havoc on both your health and your training routine, not to mention to your mental endurance. Unfortunately, the most common reaction to OTS is an even greater commitment to training harder, faster, and more often. The results? Well – take a look:
Firstly, OTS makes you tired – not in the traditional ‘good workout sense’, but fatigued in a way that throws your training and muscle wellness off balance. This type of exhaustion is often confused with a sense of demotivation or laziness, thus leading many people to push-through and push harder. Sadly, this approach does a lot more harm than good, as it delays recovery for longer periods thus placing even more stress on overall health, stamina, fitness, and the body.
Secondly, OTS feels a little like the flu: a dull aching in your muscles and joints, lightheadedness during exercise, slight nausea, and overall grumpiness follows its onset. In general, OTS leads to the lessening of enjoyment during exercise, as your goals aren’t met and your motivation declines. OTS is thus mentally and physically debilitating.
Yet apart from fatigue and an overall dampening to your exercise routine, OTS – and its resultant drive to push harder and faster – may actually lead to a number of serious and harmful consequences. Exercising too much, and pushing certain areas of your body to the brink and beyond, often leads to disturbances which may cause short and long-term damage. Examples of these types of injuries include tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and patellofemoral pain. Indeed, if the names don’t scare you away, then the pain associated with these conditions will.
Perhaps more common when it comes to OTS are symptoms you may in fact already be experiencing. These include insomnia, elevated heart rate, appetite loss, decreasing muscle mass, dwindling performance, and muscle soreness. None of these symptoms are particularly enjoyable, and while you may think that exercise more may actually alleviate them, the truth is, increased activity will only worsen them exponentially.
So, what can you do? You love training, your routine is magnificent, and you’ve finally mastered the art of waking up early enough to get the right amount of activity in before work. How could you possibly change anything at this point? Well, the truth is, it’s time to start being very honest with yourself. Exercise is wonderful for you, but too much of it may actually be putting you at a disadvantage. The key is – as with so much in life – balance. It’s very important to balance the duration, type, and pace of your routines, making sure that no one part of your body is constantly under fire.
Additionally, though it may be difficult to accept at first, rest is just as important as exercise. It is absolutely crucial that you give your body time off to recover and rest, thus allowing your muscles to repair themselves, your joints to heal, and your endurance to be prolonged. Working out is as much about the ability to listen to your body as it is to push it to be its best. Adding a rest day or two to your week will actually be a lot more beneficial to your workout than skipping them. And, as an extra bonus, you can sleep a bit later on those days!
In all seriousness, though, balancing exercise and rest is the most effective way of staving off the risks associated with Overuse Training Syndrome. Knowing how to do this is, however, tricky for many of us. That’s why we invite you to speak to one of our dedicated, professional physical therapists today. Whether you’re suffering from symptoms related to OTS, or just want dedicated, trusted advice and help, we’re here for you. With hands-on physical therapy, we offer not only the safest, most effective way of overcoming OTS related pain and injury, but we give you the best possible chance of avoiding these issues in the future. By providing sound advice, tailor-made exercises, and hands-on, quality, treatment, we will elevate your training program in a way that is safe, effective, and free from the stresses associated with overuse and exercise.
Why not give us a call today? If you’re interested in learning more, just want to chat, or are currently in pain, we urge you to click the button below to get in touch and request a call. We’re here to help and we cannot wait to hear from you. Don’t fall prey to too much exercise, thereby risking not only your fitness and routine, but your overall health, too. It’s time to make the most of your exercise routine, today.
Neck pain and upper back pain may be two of the most common ailments people experience. From struggling to move your neck, to worrying about the position you sit in on your favorite sofa, pain in the upper torso is debilitating. Yet, many of those who experience these kinds of issues haven’t suffered a fall, twisted their necks unnaturally, or been on rollercoasters since their pain started. For most people, the cause of neck pain or upper back discomfort can’t be pinpointed: there is no single unique moment in which their backs or necks could have been injured. What then? How did they come to be in so much pain? And if you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking the same thing about yourself. Fear not, however, because we’re here to help. In this post, we’ll be investigating the hidden causes that have led to your neck and upper back pain. We’ll also be looking at what to do about it and which steps to take next.
The really frustrating thing about constant neck and upper back pain is that, no matter what you seem to do, it just doesn’t want to disappear. You’ve tried everything: hot water bottles, massages, and even long periods of rest, yet nothing has changed, right? Well, the truth is, it isn’t going to get any better unless you find out exactly why you’re experiencing the pain. See, the thing is, neck and upper back pain often have pretty mundane sources: your everyday habits might be the culprits here. Thus, no matter what you do, if you don’t start there, nothing will change. In lieu of this, take a look at some of the fairly common mistakes people make:
Lack of Exercise
Now, I can hear you thinking from here… “I should be resting my muscles, not moving them!” Well, no, not really. By not moving enough, you are actually setting your recovery back considerably. Muscles and joints need to move in order to maintain mobility. If you aren’t moving your upper back and neck enough, your muscles will start to stiffen and shorten, thereby placing stress on your joints and decreasing overall movement. This invariably leads to the pain you’re experiencing now. So, while rest may intuitively feel like the right thing to do, it may actually be doing more harm than good. Why not try doing some gentle stretches to loosen up the painful area? Furthermore, if you sit at a desk for long periods of time, be mindful of getting up regularly and stretching your neck and upper back. Walk around a bit and, during your time off, take up a new sport like cycling, walking, or swimming.
Having bad posture is one of the leading causes of upper back and neck pain. Slouching leads to a variety of ailments in the long run, but a tell-tail sign of poor alignment is the nagging discomfort you come to experience in your upper torso. Start becoming mindful of how you sit and stand: make sure your spine is aligned correctly. If you’re sitting at a desk all day, make sure your chair supports your back correctly, and that your computer – if you use one – is at eye-level.
Everyday Habits: Strain on you Upper Back and Neck
You may not know this, but some of the things you do daily actually affect your upper back and neck considerably. Think about driving, for example. How long do you sit in the car for? And, when you drive, do you turn your neck or just blink into the rear-view mirror when necessary? These are the types of things you need to start considering when it comes to the health of your upper back and neck. How long do you stare at your phone for, and do you slouch while you do it? When you bend down to pick up the groceries, the school bags, or your pot plants, do you do it mindfully or without regard for your upper back and neck? What about when you clean the house, play golf, brush your teeth and hair, or shave your legs? All these daily decisions and actions accumulate over time, and the effect their incorrect execution may have is usually far too understated. Make a change today: be mindful and cognizant of how you do certain tasks, how often you do them, and whether you’re aware of what your body is trying to signal to you. The devil is in the details.
When it comes to tackling the issue of upper back and neck pain, as has been mentioned earlier, movement is your best friend. Move as much as you can and as often as you can. Be conscious of the fact, however, that you should always be sensitive to the type of activities you’re able to do. Some safe activities on your road to health include Pilates and yoga, both of which offer you the opportunity to enhance the flexibility and mobility of you upper back and neck muscles. You could also try walking, swimming, and relaxing hikes in order to jumpstart your journey to a pain free life.
In addition to the extra physical activities we suggest, physical therapy is by far the best, safest and most effective way of tackling and overcoming your upper back and neck pain. With the help of a professional, hands-on physical therapist, you’ll not only find the root cause of the problem, but your particular issue will be treated accordingly, thereby permanently relieving your pain. And not only that, a physical therapist with equip you with the tools to maintain your pain free life by giving you tailor-made stretches and exercise routines suited to you personally. Physical therapy will mobilize your joints, relieve stiffness, and rid you of your pain so that you can enjoy the life you deserve.
If you’re unsure about where to start, or you feel discouraged by the daily pain you’re enduring, contact us today. We’re here to uncover the hidden causes of your neck and upper back pain so that you can get back to living the life you dream of. We invite you to fill out the form below in order to speak to one of our highly qualified, professional physical therapists… find out how we can help you eliminate your pain, today!
John Salva, PT
"We help people in pain get back to the things they want without relying on surgery or painkillers, even if past treatments have failed."