Aching Back? The Key Is at the Core

Driving the kids to school, sitting in front of a computer screen, carrying loads of laundry or groceries—it's no wonder so many of us are uttering the words, "Oh, my aching back!"


Even as I type this column, I find my shoulders taking on a curvature noticeable enough that I can almost hear my grandmother admonishing me to sit up straight!

Good posture is something that many women take for granted. And in modern-day society, the notion can seem downright archaic. An image of hoop-skirted girls from the 1950s balancing hardcover books on their heads comes to mind—but it's quickly dismissed by the nagging pain between my shoulder blades.

Core strength has been a popular term in exercise in recent years, but what are your core muscles and is it possible for the average woman to locate them?

The muscles around your trunk and pelvis are often referred to as the core muscles. They are the muscles deep within the body—below what we typically consider our abs—and are responsible not only for posture but also balance, stability and an overall ability to enhance performance.

Though they cannot be physically seen, core muscles can be easily felt by tightening the abdomen or bringing your belly button toward your back. That's right, ladies, suck in that tummy!

No matter how fit or taught your belly might (or might not) look or feel, having a hard working core can mean the difference between slouching, standing upright and feeling your overall best.

I recently began a series of Pilates training on reformer machines and began to notice what a difference changing my workout can bring to day-to-day tasks. Pilates aims to strengthen the torso and stabilize the spine through a combination of breathing and mental awareness. I have become aware that my posture, or alignment, is far from perfect. I think about it when I'm bouncing down the stairs in the morning or jumping up from my desk in the afternoon. So much for all those sit-ups and crunches!

While reading this column, concentrate on keeping your shoulders down and back, your head lifted, tummy tight and feet firmly planted on the floor. Not easy, is it?

But by being aware and conscious of bad behaviors and correcting them—even for five seconds at a time—you will develop a heightened awareness of a torso in trouble…maybe even before the midday backache sets in!

So suck it in and, as my grandmother said, sit up straight. We all want to find that balance in life—even when we're sitting in front of our computer screens!

What do you do to keep your core muscles strong? Please share below.

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