The Core: Referring to our body’s “core” may mean different things to different people but for the purposes of this program, we refer to the core as the deep muscles in the body’s trunk, some of the muscles that our program seeks to restore after they have been impacted and changed throughout pregnancy and delivery.
Conceptually, we can think of the “core,” made up of 4 components, as a soda can or closed cylinder: the top is the diaphragm muscle, the front side is the transverse abdominis or stomach muscles, the bottom is the pelvic floor, and the back side is multifidus or back muscles. See the images below.
Above, the 4 Components of the Core
These muscles play a critical role, together, in providing support and stability to our spine, abdomen, and pelvis. They are often significantly impacted over the course of our pregnancies and during labor and delivery.
Stability & Stabilization Strategies: We require our bones and joints to be stable, or have enough connection between them, in order to do the many and varied things we ask our bodies to do every single day. Important? Yes! We certainly don’t want our bones and joints to fall apart!
Like many systems in our bodies, stability is made up of a number of components that work together to keep our bodies, bones, and joints stable. Ultimately, we have the ability to control the way we allocate, change, and distribute the amount of compression across our joints. What’s tricky here is that we can use various strategies to provide ourselves with stability to make it through our busy days. In many cases this isn’t even something we think about.
The stabilization strategies we use affect how easy (or difficult) it is for us to do the things we want to do. Clearly, because our bodies are dramatically affected during pregnancy and childbirth, these issues of strength and stability become important during the post-partum period because if we understand how they work, we can affect how well our bodies recover.
Understanding how our stabilization strategies work can help us assess our own body’s movements. By looking at how we use our bodies in our day-to-day activities, we can make changes over time to eliminate unnecessary aches and pains, some of which you may be having now, like low back pain, groin pain, painful intercourse, etc.
Using large, superficial muscles for stability: One strategy for stabilization is to use the large, superficial muscles in our trunk — the larger more dominant muscles — connecting our rib cage to our pelvis. A good example of what we mean here by larger, superficial muscles are the long rope-like muscles you can feel running down your back on either side of your spine. These often get tight for moms who experience back pain and though they do a great job of supplying a lot of stability, using them primarily can cause some fallout. In other words, because these large muscles provide stability by providing a lot of compression in your spine, if you over-use them to complete daily activities, you may find you end up with:
- decreased mobility or rigidity/stiffness when trying to move
- poor balance
- too much compression between bones and joints throughout your body causing issues like disc degeneration
- too much intra-abdominal pressure during some activities (high intra-abdominal pressure brings with it incontinence issues, irritable bladder/bowel symptoms and higher risk of prolapse or falling internal organs).
Using deep muscles for stability: We also have deep muscles below the superficial, big, long muscles we’ve discussed. They lie underneath and provide deeper stability. These muscles provide control in a different way and our brain communicates with them differently by turning them on in advance to support a movement or activity. For example, when you reach your hands up to cover your eyes and play peek-a-boo with your little one, the superficial muscles in the fronts of both shoulders work to lift your arms up. But, before they do their job, your deep stabilizing muscles turn on to prepare your spine for this movement. Then the shoulder muscles turn on to complete the arm movement.
An Optimal Stability Strategy: We call out the various stabilization strategies here to illustrate why many mothers during the post-partum year and beyond find that they’re living with various aches and pains (back, hips, groin, etc) that weren’t present pre-pregnancy. Our bodies endure significant change while our babies grow. The way we use our stability systems often changes as well. In order to regain an optimal stability strategy, it’s critical that we understand the importance of our deep muscle systems and their coordination with superficial systems. Read on, in other sections, to learn more about how to recover well from your pregnancy and childbirth experience and do the WAI program!