Balance at the Core: Connecting Core Strength With Improved Balance

Those involved in the physical therapy field have been discussing the link between core strength and better balance for years. When the “core” muscles around your trunk are strong, they are able to prevent harmful chronic conditions, such as lower back pain, balance and gait disorders, and a large number of injuries. A stronger core will help to keep you upright – especially as you age and begin increasing your risk of falling. If you’d like to get started on a core routine to improve your balance, contact Paramount Performance & Rehab today to speak with a physical therapist!

How do your core muscles impact your strength and stability?

When many people think of core muscles, they immediately picture the abs – but there are so much more! In fact, there are two separate groups of core muscles: the inner core and the outer core.

The inner core muscles are attached to your spine and they help to stabilize your core. The outer core muscles work in conjunction with the inner core muscles whenever you need to move your body from point A to point B – or, essentially to do most physical activities.

When we think of “core stability,” we are thinking of the inner core muscles. When we think of “core strength,” we are thinking of the outer core muscles. Engaging in physical therapy will help you to train both your inner and outer core muscles, in order to achieve better balance and movement.

How is the core linked to balance?

There are three systems in your body that help to control your balance: The vestibular system, the visual system, and the proprioceptive system.

The vestibular system refers to the liquid in your inner ear that functions as a sort of “carpenter’s balance,” in order to keep you level. If you’ve ever felt dizzy, it generally means that the liquid in the vestibular system is a little bit off-balance.

The visual system refers to the messages that your brain and eyes send to each other, in order to help you see. Your eyes send signals to your brain about your position in relation to the world around you.

The proprioceptive system is the one that involves your core. Proprioception nerves are sensory nerves that situate throughout the body. They make you aware of your posture and aware of spatial things around you.

In order to stay balanced, one must have equilibrium in all three systems. A weak core is one element that can make you feel off-balance and cause you to fall down.

How will physical therapy improve my core strength and stability?

You don’t need a bunch of expensive gym equipment to start working on your core strength. In fact, there is a quick exercise that many physical therapists will recommend to you, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s called the “drawing in maneuver,” also referred to simply as “sucking your gut in.”

First, stand up straight and find the proper pelvic position. This is done by rotating your hips forward and back finding the comfortable “middle” position. Then, draw your belly button in toward your spine. Don’t hold your breath – it’s not a breathing exercise. You should be able to breathe, talk, and slowly walk around with your belly button drawn in. It sounds easy, but if you’re out of shape, older, or recovering from an injury, the “drawing in maneuver” will be a little difficult at first.

You’ll want to build up your core muscles until you can hold your belly button in for at least 30 seconds before moving on to more difficult core exercises. It is important to note that if you feel any pain from this exercise, stop immediately. It shouldn’t be a painful exercise. As you build up your core, your physical therapist will recommend moving on to more strenuous exercises that are appropriate for your age and ability. This may range from gentler workouts, such as a yoga routine, to planks or bridges for the more athletic.

If you have a weak core or you’re struggling with balance, physical therapy can help! Contact our Newton, MA office today to schedule an appointment to get started on your path toward greater stability and balance.

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