Dr. Justine Landry, DC I recently took a course through Bellies Inc. Education to obtain a Pre/Post Natal Fitness Specialist certification, and am so excited to add the most up-to-date research on pregnancy and fitness into my chiropractic assessment and treatments. One of the topics that we focused on during the course was our core muscles and how important they are to each and every one of us, especially during pregnancy.
When you think of your core muscles, what do you think of? Crunches and a six-pack of abs are often what come to mind, however there is much more to your core than that. Our core muscles play a very important part in maintaining optimal functioning in our body. With all of thechanges that occur during pregnancy, different stress is put through our core muscles, which can sometimes lead to pain and dysfunction. Although every individual’s core is extremely important to focus on, today I am going to talk specifically about some of the effects that pregnancy may have on this group of muscles.
What Are The Core Muscles? Our true core involves four different muscles: DiaphragmThis is the main muscle we use in breathingThis muscle separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavityIn an ideal core, this muscle moves together with the muscles of the pelvic floor Pelvic floor(a group of muscles)This group of muscles provides stability and support to our spine and pelvisThey help keep the pelvic organs in place and maintain our continence Transversus abdominusThis is the deepest abdominal muscles that acts like a corset inserting on either side of your spineThis muscle is meant to be the first to activate to anticipate our body’s movement, however, excessive stretching of this muscle (which happens with pregnancy) can cause challenges with that function MultifidusThis muscle functions to support and protect the spine and is often overlooked when we are talking about the coreA weakness in this muscle contributes to chronic, dull low back pain
What Do The Core Muscles Do?
Our core muscles work together to anticipate and prepare our body for our every move.They should be the first muscles to activate with movement and work together to ensure properalignment, breathing, and coordination as we move. If one of the core muscles is not working properly, it can throw the whole system off.
In a dysfunctional core, we need to retrain these muscles through restorative exercises so that they can properly anticipate our movements. However, if our core muscles are dysfunctional, sometimes participating in core training exercises will actually hinder you rather than help. It is very important to be doing the appropriate exercises, but sometimes it is hard to know what exercises are best for you. This is one of the reasons why it is important to have your core assessed by a healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor or physiotherapist, so you can make sure that you are doing exercises that are suitable for you specifically.
What Are Some Common Causes Of Core Dysfunction During Pregnancy?
Effects on the four core muscles As we go through pregnancy, our breathing often becomes more shallow and ourdiaphragm has less room to expand because of our growing bellyWe go through many postural changes during pregnancy to counteract the growing belly, which can lead to strain and dysfunction of the multifidus muscleOur pelvic floor goes form supporting 1-3lbs to 14-24lbs, which puts a lot of extra stress through the musclesOur transversus abdominus muscle becomes stretched beyond its optimal length as our belly is growing. When this happens, the muscle isn’t able to generate its full force DeliveryVaginal delivery puts strain on the pelvic floor, connective tissue, and nerves.85% of women will sustain some degree of perineal trauma or tearing with a vaginal delivery, and if this is not properly addressed after delivery, it can lead to dysfunction.Cesarean delivery is an abdominal surgery that cuts through layers of muscles, fascia and connective tissues. This may cause dysfunction of the muscles that are involved. Previous injuriesOld and unresolved sprains, strains, and surgeries cause compensation and dysfunction. HormonesThere is an increase in the hormone relaxin during pregnancy, which increases ligament laxity and helps widen the joints in your pelvis. Although this is necessary during pregnancy, sometimes these changes can affect your core muscles. Returning to high impact exercises too soonMany new moms have the desire to go back to their “normal” bodies very soon after they give birth. It is really important to give our bodies the time they need to recover. Be patient with yourself, listen to your body, and appreciate how strong you are and the changes you went through to birth your new little one! Participating in high impact exercises if your body isn’t ready for it may actually cause more damage than good in the long term.New mothers also spend so much time in a forward bending position while nursing, holding baby, etc, so often times we do not want to give exercises that cause you to continually flex your spine forward. However, abdominal crunches are often a go-to exercise for strengthening your core. This may create unnecessary pressure on the core muscles, and may actually lead to harm.
How Can I Correct My Core Dysfunction?
Whether you are having symptoms or not, it is always a great idea to get a check-up post partum to ensure healthy functioning of the spine and core muscles, and prevent problems from happening in the future. To help correct core dysfunction, myofascial release therapy, spinal manipulative therapy, and contemporary medical acupunctureare some of the tools I use. Another extremely important part of treatment is restorative exercises as I mentioned above. We will go over exercises that are appropriate and effective for you so that you can retrain your muscles to function properly. Education about this topic is so important, so another aspect of treatment we focus on is making sure to take the time to properly educate you so that you can make informed decisions about your body and health.