Or, What is the Core and Why Should I Care About It?

When we refer to the core, we’re referring to the deepest muscles of the trunk. These muscles work together to make up what Joseph Pilates called the ‘centre’ or the ‘core’. The muscles of the core maintain posture, support the abdominal organs, and control spinal movement. Modern research shows that when we move an arm or leg, the core muscles engage to stabilize the spine before the arm or leg even begins to move. In healthy people, the engagement of the core muscles precedes movement of a limb by about 110 milliseconds. In patients with a history of back pain, however, research shows a significant delay in core muscle engagement.

While Joseph described the core as consisting of all the abdominal muscles, with advances in modern science we now know that a specific subset of the trunk muscles are most important in stabilizing the spine and maintaining good posture. The major muscles of the core are:

  1. Transversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle)
  2. Multifidus (a deep muscle of the back)
  3. The pelvic floor muscles
  4. The diaphragm

If you have never had any episodes of significant pain or injury to the spine or pelvis, your core muscles should be functioning normally. However, if you have experienced an episode of pain or injury to the spine or pelvis, your core may not be functioning correctly. During an episode of pain or injury, important stabilizing muscles stop working properly. Even after the original injury heals, the stabilizing muscles will not resume their correct functioning without specific retraining.

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