Parents of children with movement difficulties, no matter the diagnosis, are often told by doctors, therapists, and other health professionals that their child has “a weak core”.
Okay so they can’t do a sit-up or they have weak abdominals…but that’s not really all that goes into a “weak core” or poor posture.
So…What Does It Mean Then?
The term “core” usually refers to the muscles that work to hold the trunk upright and steady when the limbs are moved. The neck muscles also play a really important role in your core to be able to hold yourself erect. All of these muscles need to work together in a coordinated manner to keep the head and trunk steady – especially when moving the arms and legs.
It’s very likely the abdominals are weak and the back extensors are weak…but there are actually other factors that contribute to the inability to hold your posture or stability too.
Other Factors That Affect Your Core…
Good flexibility is essential for core muscle activation.
For example, if the hip muscle flexibility is limited – the child will sit with their pelvis tilted backward and the back rounded. This means that in this position, the back core muscles are overstretched and can’t work effectively to stabilize the trunk. Even the neck position will compensate in this position and your front neck muscles will overstretch and you will have weakness of the neck muscles with tightness in the back.
Postural Response Mechanisms
Fancy lingo for your body’s natural reaction to changes in position. These consist of:
- Anticipatory Postural Response – Activate muscles in preparation for a change in position or movement.
- Balance Responses – Change the alignment of the different segments of the body to maintain balance.
- Posture stabilization – Help maintain your posture over long periods of time.
All of these factors: muscle strength, flexibility, and postural responses all contribute to the position of your posture and core.
So even if your child has a hard time holding their head upright – it doesn’t mean that just their neck muscles are weak…you have to look at the position of their legs, their pelvis, their lower back, and all the way up to the neck that’s contributing to their head control or lack of head control.
Why Is This Important?
If they are not exercised properly or in a way to address all factors…then over time it leads to more muscular and structural deformities i.e. overstretched muscles, contractures, pelvic compensations, and so on…
So next time your therapist says your child has a weak core…you can ask WHY.
Which of these factors are contributing to their inability to hold themselves upright and HOW can we fix it?
About the Author
Dr. Christine Astarita, PT, DPT is the founder of Breakthrough Intensive PT; Long Island’s intensive therapy center focused around the whole family. Throughout her career, Christine has worked with children from the NICU all the way into adulthood and knew there had to be a better way to serve them. So, she’s taken her passion and direction in life to serve the special needs community by offering intensive therapy programs, group fitness programs, parent support, and educational programs, as well as sibling support programs to enhance and improve the quality of their lives.
When not working at Breakthrough PT, reading, or researching ways to improve the business, you can find her out with her family hiking the trails or preparing for her next half or full marathon! Christine loves running and believes it to be her method of meditation all while keeping her in shape to eat all of the ice cream and french fries she wants! She believes her true purpose and calling is to help this underserved community in a BIG way.
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