Stability is a ‘good thing’
At a recent Yoga and Alexander Workshop, there was a request for references to some of the science I mentioned. One of those questions was about Core Stability:
It goes without saying that “stability is a good thing”. That is if you define it as the general tendency not to fall down! Our bodies are made to stabilise under load automatically, as long as you are remaining coordinated as you move, all you need to do is have a friend gently push you on the shoulder… if you decide to stay where you are your muscular system will jump into action stabilising your position. Notice however that the decision to stay is an essential part of this… if you decide to move, well the neuro-muscular system will ‘dynamically stabilise’ you, to ensure you don’t fall over as you do.
You can easily observe how the actions of the ‘core-musculature’… generally thought of as the abdominals muscles (though that is highly debatable) are part of this natural stabilising process, however, the concept of ‘core stability’ has well outgrown its usefulness. It is often used to suggest ‘direct’ muscular contraction of the abdominal muscles however this has not been shown to be useful in improving stability generally or back-pain specifically. Taken to extremes it can be harmful by over-stiffening the torso, preventing effective breathing and interfering with the healthy integrated ‘self-organising’ characteristics of action.
Here is a quote from Professor Eyal Lederman:
“Weak trunk muscles, weak abdominals and imbalances between trunk muscles groups are not pathological, just a normal variation. The division of the trunk into core and global muscle system is a reductionist fantasy, which serves only to promote CS. Weak or dysfunctional abdominal muscles will not lead to back pain. Tensing the trunk muscles is unlikely to provide any protection against back pain or reduce the recurrence of back pain. Core stability exercises are no more effective than, and will not prevent injury more than, any other forms of exercise. Core stability exercises are no better than other forms of exercise in reducing chronic lower back pain. Any therapeutic influence is related to the exercise effects rather than CS issues. There may be potential danger of damaging the spine with continuous tensing of the trunk muscles during daily and sports activities. Patients who have been trained to use complex abdominal hollowing and bracing maneuvers should be discouraged from using them.” Lederman “The Myth of Core Stability”
Here are some other Alexander related Core Stability links:
and some other scientific blogs and articles on Core Stability:
Core Stability Research Update
“Brace Yourself” Mary O’Keeffe