For more than a decade I have been teaching Pilates and movement based therapy as an adjunct to physiotherapy around Brisbane. For a considerable amount of time I (like many other physiotherapists out there) have had a belief system that engaging deep abdominal muscles were the key to improve spinal function and to think about these exercises before moving was important.
However over recent years there have been a number of clinicians including renowned physiotherapist Professor Peter O’Sullivan who have discovered that in fact there is little evidence that pre stiffening your trunk improves your “back strength”. He publicly discusses literature around how bracing and pre bracing before moving can in fact increase compression causing symptoms.
Peter O’Sullivan also has open the conversation around the idea of “core stability” one you have probably heard many times and discusses the fact our spine and trunk has a 3 dimensional movement system with the ability to move in many directions with the aide of many muscles and that in fact there is no such thing as “core stability”.
Peter is offering a new conversation, one around the idea that we need to trust our bodies and that even though there may have been some physiological damage in the recent or distant past that our bodies are a self healing mechanism and that our spines are robust. To be able to trust our bodies allows us to develop normal patterns of movement.
I have travelled the world and seen individuals working the land and using their bodies to the extreme that most of us in the western world would cringe at. In my recent trip to Bali I saw a rice farmer in the paddy’s in the hot sun leaning over planting rice for hours, I saw women carrying bags of sand on their heads up a massive stair case carrying what I would say was at least 10-20 kg bags. I don’t think they were thinking about stiffening their trunk ……. Because in actual fact this happens naturally!
These days when I teach Pilates and movement based classes I endeavour to empower you to trust your body and allow you to feel movement that happens in all different directions. I use breathing and breathing exercises as well as some mindfulness practices to help with body awareness and coordination and perhaps bring some awareness in deep-seated movement patterns that may not be serving you.
Pilates and movement therapies are one on one or duo classes. Health rebates are available.
“What we understand from the literature, is that often the fear of pain causes people to make protective movements and as a result people’s movement patterns become really abnormal and act as a mechanism for self harm” Professor Peter O’Sullivan, PhD