Columnists Michelle Jang

Your Very Own Back Brace

Michele S Jang, PT

Do you suffer from back pain?  Want to have better balance? More athletic ability? Do you want better posture and walking? You were born with your own back corset which when developed will help you with all movement endeavors and aspirations.

There are 4 groups of abdominal muscles: the rectus abdominis, the external  obliques, the internal obliques and the transverse abdominis. The rectus abdominis in very fit people are seen as “6 pack abs”. The internal and external oblique abdominal muscles run at an angle and assist your trunk flex and rotate. The transverse abdominis or TVA for short run deepest to the other abdominal muscles.

This is the most important of the abdominals to work. The TVA’s job is to protect and add stability to your abdominals, organs, spine, pelvis and trunk. It is in essence your own muscular corset. Weakness of the TVA allows for abdominal wall to bulge anteriorly. The transverse abdominis runs horizontally connecting several parts of your body including your lower ribs, diaphragm, thoracolumbar fascia, pelvis, pubic bone and center fascia of your abdomen.

To find your transverse abdominis, lie on your back on a firm surface with your legs bent, feet flat on the surface. Place your hands on the sides of your body below your ribcage, fingers pointing towards your navel. While gently coughing, feel for your TVAs they’ll contract as they push your body into your hands.

Many exercises of varying difficulty develop your transverse abdominis. For an exercise to find and increase your awareness of your TVA, start in the position described above. Contract these muscles while performing a slow marching motion with your legs. Keep your hands on your body for feedback as to whether your TVA is constantly contracting.

Another exercise to begin to develop your TVA, start on your back with your legs bent. Alternate bringing one bent knee to fall out to the side a few inches in a slow manner, then return to its starting position. Perform the same movement with the opposite leg; then alternate between sides. Only allow your bent knee to “fall out”, as far as you can keep your back and pelvis from rocking on the table. Try to perform 2 sets of slow, controlled 10 repetitions of these exercises.

During both of these exercises, the TVA should be contracted throughout. Often one side of your leg movement will elicit a better contraction then the opposite side.  Commonly the TVA contraction is lost during that moment when you are switching between the sides. Try to hold the contraction throughout the exercise. Please feel free to reach out to us if you want further guidance on how to develop your own transverse abdominis.

Michele S Jang, PT is a physical therapist who likes to look outside the box. A physical therapist for over 22 years, she has extensive training in manual therapy or the use of hands to help rehabilitate the body. Michele has taught both in the United States and abroad. Her clinic, Spirit Winds, has a team of therapists which offers an array of expertise on exercise, fall prevention, foot and shoe assessments, body mechanics and proper breathing technique to increase awareness and healing. Spirit Winds offers Free Consults on Tuesday afternoons. Call 805 543-5100 or info@spiritwindstherapy.com.