Jeans, a Dryer, a House, and Low Back Pain

Low Back Pain Stabilization Exercise

Building off a recent post on using analogies in physical therapy, we have another one we like to use to put people’s diagnosis and our treatment into perspective.  We see lots of people with back pain for physical therapy here at SSOR and one of the analogies we talk about with core stabilization revolves around jeans, a dryer, and the “house” of your core muscles.

What muscles make up the core?

While the late night infomercials tell you it’s the killer “six-pack abs,” those muscles aren’t really the most important of the core muscles.  In truth, you should think of the core like a house.  The diaphragm is the roof, the pelvic floor muscles (the ones you squeeze to stop the flow of urine) are the “basement”, the gluteus medius constitutes the “side walls,” the back muscles/gluteus maximus as the “back of the house,” and the rectus abdominus (“6 pack muscle”) as the front of the house.  Of course, the transverse abdominus (TA) brings everything together as it encircles the whole midsection.  Deep stabilizers of the back constitute the inside walls and structures that provide support.  Hopefully, that makes sense.

Low Back Pain and Transverse Abdominus Function

The transverse abdominus is a critical stabilizer for the low back.  Truly, it is our own built in back brace.  Numerous studies have linked delays in transverse abdominus firing in those with back pain compared to those that don’t have back pain.  Furthermore, other studies have found decreased thickness of the muscle/cross-sectional area of the muscle in people with low back pain.

Treatment for Low Back Pain

One of the first things we teach people regarding core stabilization is how to properly contract their TA.  After making sure they can breathe diaphragmatically first, we then work on TA stabilization.  We will eventually work on teaching people to “brace” their spine as well, but this is the starting point.
Think of what you do to button a pair of pants that are fresh out of the dryer.  They tend to be a little tighter and you have to “hold your gut in” to fasten your pants.  Well, that’s your TA working hard to allow that button to attach!
We encourage you to do this every time you pick something up, put something down, working out at the gym or working in the backyard.   It’s a great “warning” to your back to protect your spine and it makes you use that back brace that you were born with.
Give us a call if you are battling back pain.  We’re your first choice for physical therapy to get you back to work, life, and play.  Remember, you don’t need a physician referral to see a PT now in Kansas! Call us today, 913-904-1128.