If someone has a chronic lower back pain, one of the most common therapeutic recommendations is to ‘strengthen your core’. Typically, the core refers to the whole middle band of the torso, but most use this pseudo-anatomical term to mean the front or the abdominal area. The standard model therapy idea to relieve chronic lower back pain by ‘strengthening your core’ is to reduce the lumbar spine curvature by shortening your abdominals.
In this thinking, excessive curvature in the lower back is due to a slackening or weakening in the core, which can be remedied by dynamic exercises that contract or ‘crunch’ the belly area. In turn, the most common exercises today worldwide for core strengthening are any which shorten, flatten, and pull in the belly. Bowing the belly instead of flattening it is considered an misalignment which will weaken the entire core area - lower back and abdominals.
In a radically alternative view, the Bowspring method views the core in the shape of bowed or curved tube of fascia, not a vertical cylinder of muscle. Instead of thinking of the lower back curve getting longer and the spine decompressing through shortening the belly, the Bowspring balances the alignment of the lower back by increasing the curvature and bowed length of the total waist area particularly the whole belly area. Instead of a short, contracted belly and a straighter lower back, the Bowspring curves the belly forward and upward in a long, narrowing bow.
The basis of standard model therapy is the idea that excessive curvature of the lower back is the main cause of the pain. To reduce the curve on the back, the standard model strategy is to shorten the abdominals on the front. If the front is strong enough, it won’t sag, and so the possibility of lower back compression is limited. Although this is a dominant thinking worldwide, there is little evidence that this straighter, tighter alignment in the waist area – lower back and belly – has any long-term benefits for the lower back at all.
From an emotional health point of view, the default alignment in the belly area during distress or fear is to shorten between the sternum and the navel, and to tighten the lower belly beneath the navel as the tailbone tucks under. When the nerve plexus in the belly is tightened, then sensitivity and feelings of vulnerability are reduced. It is a natural biological reflex to contract the belly under a threat or perceived pain so we feel less for our own protection.
The pre-programmed unconscious contraction reflex of the belly is designed to be a short-term posture only as long as the outer threat is present. However, typical core strengthening exercises tend to reinforce the closed default position in the belly which leads to chronic reduction in our emotional capacity to feel. By consciously shortening the solar plexus area, the fascia on the front of the body gets tighter and harder, while the fascia on the lower back area becomes weaker and more disengaged. Instead of helping chronic lower back issues, classic abdominal exercises tend to weaken the lower back over time and also tend to bolster the somatic patterning of emotional closure.