We have all heard the word ‘Backbone’ used to portray an image of strength or support, like when we hear something described as “the backbone of America”. Of course, when we think about the spine, we also think of strength and support. This prehistoric-looking bony tower is meant to hold us upright, house our nervous system, and provide space for our organs. The spine’s strength actually comes from a complex web of muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia that holds this curved tower in place, not the bones themselves. Without these supports, the spine would actually crumble under less than 5 kg of weight.
We can’t always rely solely on the back to do all of the heavy lifting for us. After all, if the spine is the backbone of the body, what is the “backbone” of the spine? The answer: the Core. While the muscles of the spine are working hard to keep the bony structures in line, the dynamics of the inner and outer systems of the core must work equally hard to create balanced equilibrium of the entire torso. In an ideal world, the spine and core are working harmoniously to carry the weight and movement of our torso and limbs, while we come up against numerous forces throughout the day that constantly challenge these supports.
I like to think of these superficial and deep muscular structures as crossbeams, much like those used to hold up the roof of your house. The X patterns that crisscross the torso create an unbreakable support system, or does it? Sometimes these crossbeams can be misaligned, bear uneven weight, or thanks to hand dominance, have excessive pushes and pulls on one side. These factors among others create a spiral into pain and dysfunction throughout the entire body, especially the back, pelvis, shoulders, and neck.
Creating a structural support system that distributes even weight and force against these crossbeams, allows our backbone to do its job while the backbone of the backbone, the Core, lends a helping hand.
Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, PMA®-CPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute
Studio Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
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