When most people think of working their core, they think of their abs and doing crunches. In reality, our core is much more complex than just our abs.
The purpose of the core is to help stabilize the spine and thus the body while we perform any variety of movements throughout the day, such as going from sitting to standing, walking around the office, gardening, housework, or exercising. There are many muscles that surround the spine and torso that comprise the core and help offset the spine. The diaphragm muscle is the dome-shaped muscle on “top” of our core located just under the ribs that is used for breathing. Contracting this muscle helps widen the thoracic cavity and allowing our lungs to expand and us to breathe. Sometimes this muscle can be weak or tight and can contribute to having difficulty taking deeper breaths during exercise.
The “bottom” of our core are the muscles of the pelvic floor within the pelvis, one purpose of which is to help hold the bladder up like a sling and lift the bladder when performing a contraction (a kegel). Weakness in these muscles can present with issues such as bladder leakage when coughing or sneezing or even prolapse.
The “walls” of our core is comprised of several muscles, including the transverse abdominis muscle which wraps around our torso like a girdle and helps contribute to intraabdominal pressure. If the walls, top, or bottom of our core are weak, tight, or otherwise not performing as they should, this causes the rest of the core to perform not at its best. This can translate to issues such as pain, limited ROM, weakness, or changes in bowel and bladder.
Strengthening our core is important for pelvic floor therapy in particular, but for the vast majority of other patients as well. The stronger our core, the stronger of a base we have for all other parts of our bodies to move and perform the best they can.