What does ‘Core strengthening’ mean to you? As a physiotherapist, I probably think about ‘Core’ a little differently than most people. One of the key muscles that we discuss with patients when talking about back health and core stability is Transversus Abdominis (TA). While many core exercises focus on the ‘six pack’ (Rectus Abdominis) and oblique muscles (Internal and External Obliques), I like to start my core education with patients by discussing the role of Transversus Abdominis in supporting your low back. 

Transversus Abdominis is your deepest abdominal muscle. It sits beneath the Rectus Abdominis and Oblique muscles. The muscle fibers of Transversus Abdominis run horizontally from your low back to your sides. The muscle bellies on both sides are connected across your abdomen by a layer of fascia. I describe this fascia as a tarp over your abdomen and the Transversus Abdominis muscle holds onto both sides of that tarp. When the muscle contracts, it pulls the tarp tight, and ‘squeezes’ around your mid-section. It is like a corset around your low back and abdomen that works to support your low back by tensioning it horizontally. This is similar to sucking in your stomach, but we try to be very specific with how we teach people to recruit the correct muscles. We need all of our core muscles to coordinate in order to achieve proper stabilization of our low back. Often the TA is dysfunctional in people with chronic low back pain and it needs retraining in order to perform its normal role in supporting the lower back.

When trying to specifically train your Transversus Abdominis, the focus is on maintaining a stable spine while performing various movements. We often start with very simplistic movements in order to help patients understand the role of Transversus Abdominis before progressing to more traditional exercises such as planking. It is the principles and the function of Transversus Abdominis that we try to relay to our patients in order to give them lifelong tools to prevent low back pain. Sometimes we use Real-Time Ultrasound Imaging to assist and educate patients by giving them immediate visual feedback regarding appropriate muscle contraction. In this way they are able to see when they are using the proper muscles correctly. 

If you would like to learn more about Transversus Abdominis and how it can help with low back pain, book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists or kinesiologist today. Call 250-314-0788 or book online HERE.