Core Series: Part Three
This is the last post in our core series. We will go over the muscles in the back that make up the core. Yes you heard me right. There are muscles in the back that are very important players in your core, including your gluteus maximus and piriformis. Sir Mix-a-lot isn’t the only one that likes big buts. A strong gluteus maximus goes far in preventing back pain! We will go into depth below.
The erector spinae are a group of muscles on both sides of your spinal column that run vertically up and down your whole spine like curtains (Avoid Back Pain and Improve Balance by Strengthening Core Muscles, 2013). Their function is to extend your back and help with backwards rotation of the trunk. They start on your hips and sides of your lumbar spine and span up the back to insert on your cervical (neck) and thoracic (mid back) spine. This group is overlooked as one large muscle group but is the first line of protection for a stable spine.
The gluteus maximus is referred to as the "butt" in layman's terms. It is the largest of the gluteal muscles and important for pelvis alignment, extending the hip to propel you forward during walking and running, and helps standing on one leg (Koch). It originates on the back of your hip bones and inserts onto the IT band and femur. It's important to keep this muscle strong in order to support your spine. An easy way to do this is with the bridge exercise demonstrated below.
In order to do a bridge lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, and legs shoulder width apart. Sucking in your stomach like you are trying to fit into your tightest pair of pants, squeeze your glutes together and lift your hips to the ceiling. Control bringing your hips back down to the table. It is important that you actively squeeze your glutes every time you do a repetition to get the most out of this exercise. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps each.
The piriformis is a deep hip rotator. Although it is small, it plays a big roll when considering your back. It originates on the internal surface of your sacrum (the bone that connects both illiums of the pelvis) and inserts on the femur (Ma, 2011). Your sciatic nerve, named for where it exits the pelvis, generally is located below the piriformis muscle. Depending on the person, the sciatic nerve can be located above or even run through the muscle (Chang, Jeno, & Varracalo, 2020). This is important because of piriformis syndrome which is a condition where the muscle becomes too tight or shortened and puts pressure on the nerve causing pain in the glutes that can radiate down the leg. It is important to keep this muscle pliable. To do this, follow the directions for a piriformis stretch below.
Seated Piriformis Stretch Supine Piriformis Stretch
Sitting on a chair with both feet flat on the ground, cross the left leg over the right by placing your left ankle on your right knee. If you feel a stretch hold this for 30 seconds. If you do not feel a stretch in this position you can bend forward over your leg to get a better stretch. Do three reps with a 45 second hold each and repeat on the opposite side. An alternate position is given laying down
If you currently have pain or would like to prevent injury contact us at Dion Physical Therapy for a specialized plan of care. Questions? Feel free to email or call! Ph: 774-955-5830.
Avoid back pain and improve balance by strengthening core muscles. (2013, May 13). Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/avoid-back-pain-and-improve-balance-by-strengthening-core-muscles
Chang, C., Jeno, S., & Varracalo, M. (2020). Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Piriformis Muscle. NCBI, 3(1), 75-75. doi:10.1007/bf02821338
Koch, A., Mpt, Comt, STMT-1, & SFMA-1. (n.d.). 3 reasons Strong glutes are important. Retrieved February 03, 2021, from https://bestcare.org/news/3-reasons-strong-glutes-are-important#:~:text=Gluteus%20maximus%20is%20the%20primary,even%20standing%20on%20one%20leg
Ma, Yun Tao. Piriformis muscle. (2011). Retrieved February 03, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/piriformis-muscle#:~:text=The%20piriformis%20muscle%20originates%20at,the%20femur%20in%20the%20acetabulum.