Proper Core Muscle Balance is Critical for Back Pain Treatment
by Dr. Corey Van Westen
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We utilize special diagnostic testing to diagnose and monitor the causes of your health conditions. The J-Tech Tracker System compares your results to known normal values established by the American Medical Association.
Two of the most important measurements the Physical Performance Test examines is the patient’s range of motion and strength of their core muscles.
With these measurements we can formulate a ratio based on the relative strengths of your core musculature. From this ratio we can determine if your muscles (and posture) are balanced or unbalanced.
By testing your range of motion and core muscle strength, we get a very accurate and helpful picture of how your muscles are affecting your posture and spinal health.
The muscles that pull your neck and back forward are called flexors. The muscles that pull your neck and back backwards are called extensors. Ideally, your extensors should be stronger than your flexors, and the amount stronger they are falls into a range of acceptable Flexion-Extension Ratios. If your ratio is outside the acceptable range, your posture will be unbalanced and causes chronic pain.
A balanced posture is erect, stable, and resilient to injury. Posture with unbalanced core muscles tends to slump and slouch, be unstable, and be particularly vulnerable to injury and cause pain and degeneration and arthritis.
Frequently Asked Questions about Physical Performance Testing
What is Physical Performance Testing?
Physical Performance Testing is a measurement of the range of motion of your spine or limbs, as well as a measurement of the strength of your muscles in relation to each other. From this test, we can determine where you have restricted range of motion and misalignments in your spine or limbs, and whether or not the musculature is balanced to encourage or restrict good posture.
Why do we perform a Physical Performance Test?
We perform initial and follow up Physical Performance Testing in order to establish benchmarks of objective improvements in your range of motion and muscle balance. As you progress through treatment and begin to feel better, you will also be able to see yourself perform better in measureable ways and we can adjust your care accordingly. This is how we can scientifically work toward stabilizing your problem areas so the condition does not return or progressively worsen.
How do we perform a Physical Performance Test?
Physical Performance Testing is administered using the computerized J-Tech Tracker Instruments and software, and then compared to known normal values established by the American Medical Association.
Is the test painful?
The testing is gentle, and generally painless. In the case of algometry (pain threshold measurement), you may feel some slight discomfort but this is always tailored to your tolerance.
My doctor and physical therapy team talk about a Flexion-Extension Ratio, what is this?
The Flexion-Extension Ratio is an important measurement of the strength of the muscles in the front of your body in relation to the strength of the muscles in the back of your body. If these muscles are in the correct Flexion-Extension Ratio, your posture is likely to be strong and stable and erect. You will feel better and be stable and less likely to reinjures. If the ratios are incorrect, your posture is likely to be weak, unstable, and slumped. This will cause reinjures, chronic pain and degenerative arthritis.
How can I improve my range of motion and Flexion-Extension Ratio?
If you follow the instructions of the rehabilitation team and your doctor, both of these will improve over time. Chiropractic adjustments will unlock the misaligned vertebrae and physical therapy will help reestablish the postural and muscular balance. You will be re-tested periodically to ensure that you are progressing steadily.
Won’t I fix my core-muscle-balance if I do a workout program like yoga or Pilates?
A good workout program for the core, including, but not limited to strength training, yoga or Pilates, are balanced exercises. This means they strengthen both abdominal and back muscles equally. If you have an imbalance from accumulated strain, bad posture, or injuries, a workout will just “strengthen” or cement this imbalance. This may help one compensate better but it is just a matter of time before the back pain, or worse yet a disc herniation will occur. The research shows that a flexion-extension ratio imbalance will lead to serious back problems. So, get tested, get the care needed and get to the proper balance and core balance. Then support this correction with a good core fitness program such as Pilates or yoga.