We often talk about which muscles you should strengthen to support a balanced spine and nervous system but in light of some exciting research we’re taking a closer look at the core of the matter.
According to recent discoveries by neuroscientists at Pittsburgh and Columbia Universities, working on your core can also have a positive effect on how well you respond to stress. Through elaborate mapping of the nervous system and its connections they were able to see that the motor cortex (that is the part of the brain that controls movement) is also closely linked to your adrenal glands. Many of the neurons in the motor area of the brain that are dedicated to organising your axial muscles (those are the muscles found in the central part of your body such as your core) also control your adrenal medulla (which is the part of the organs that release the hormones required to respond to stress). The researchers believe this may help explain why activities like going to the gym or yoga or pilates are successful for helping people cope with stress.
Your core muscles are made up of your rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and transverse abdominis, as well as your mutlifidus and erector spinae along your spine and other muscles within your pelvis. These structures work together to link your upper and lower body, underpinning any movement you make by forming a kind of scaffolding for your spine and abdominal contents. Many of us are familiar with various activities and exercises we can do to engage our core and we even give advice for you here at Chiropractic Balance about how to correctly activate these muscles so you can get the most out of life. However a central piece of the puzzle can often be forgotten about in the health discussion about your core – that is until researchers here in New Zealand made some exciting discoveries.
In one study done at the Centre for Chiropractic Research in Auckland, 90 healthy pain-free young men were assessed to see if their core switched on automatically a few milliseconds before they moved their arms (as should be the case to co-ordinate movement). People whose nervous systems don’t co-ordinate this core activation prior to limb movement are know to be more prone to injury. During the first stage of the study 17 of the 90 men were identified as not pre-activating their core muscles properly. Six months later the same 17 men were followed up of which 13 were reassessed to see if there had been an improvement – there wasn’t. None of them could organise their bodies any better so a chiropractic examination was carried out and found that all of these 13 individuals had subluxations (the chiropractic term for imbalances) in their pelvis. So the second stage of the study involved giving these 13 men an adjustment before re-testing their core muscle activation. And an immediate 40% improvement in core muscle function was observed!
In addition to this exciting revelation, the same group of researchers have also more recently found through another study that a single adjustment improves brain-body communication to such an extent that leg muscle strength improved to the equivalent of three weeks of training at the gym!
So from now on, when thinking core, also think stress relief with chiropractic and maintain your regular visits to keep in balance for your gym, yoga or pilates!