The transverse abdominis (TA) is the deepest abdominal muscle. It is an incredibly important core muscle as it helps to ferro stabilize both the spine and pelvis. The TA wraps across the abdomen, which is the reason it is nicknamed “the corset muscle”. A functioning TA keeps the abdomen along with its internal contents (organs, etc.) tight to the body, not allowing it to protrude. This gives the appearance of a flatter stomach. A very common mistake that people looking to flatten their bellies make is strengthening the rectus abdominis only and ignoring the TA. If the TA is weak, the abdominal region will not be pulled back, giving it a more rounded or bulging appearance. The rectus abdominis is most commonly known as “the 6-pack muscle” and is visible in people with low body fat due to its superficial location. The TA lies beneath the rectus abdominis, the external and internal obliques attaching to the lower six ribs at its upper fibers and the hip bone at its lower fibers. The TA is often overlooked in many people and weakness of the TA is very commonly associated with low back pain.
How is the TA associated with low back pain?
In many recent clinical studies, researchers have investigated the effects of an impaired function of the TA and other postural stabilizers such as the multifidi muscles. It has been commonly observed in people that present low back pain that they have delayed activation of spine stabilizers, specifically the transverse abdominis and multifidi muscles (Hodges). An exercise regiment designed to help train the person to be able to contract the TA and obliques on demand has shown to be beneficial to increasing stability of the spine during activity. In people with low back pain, this delayed or impaired response of the TA can be combated by training the muscles to contract with the effect of increasing the lumbar joint protection and therefore increasing lumbar spine stability. In a 2011 study that looked at the effects of a muscle activation regime for TA, obliques, and rectus abdominis with relation to intra-abdominal pressure and spine stability, it was found that exercises that forced activation of the TA and obliques resulted in an increase in spine stability due to the increased intra-abdominal pressure (Stokes). This was not the case however, for the rectus abdominis forced contraction exercises, which showed decreased spinal stability. It is important to incorporate simple TA and postural muscle strengthening and activation exercises in order to increase spine stability, which will help to decrease back pain.
The information provided on this site is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Please consult with a health care professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you suspect you might have a health problem.
Hodges, Paul W., and Carolyn A. Richardson. “Inefficient Muscular Stabilization of the Lumbar Spine Associated With Low Back Pain.” Spine 21.22 (1996): 2640-650. Web.
Stokes, Ian A.f., Mack G. Gardner-Morse, and Sharon M. Henry. “Abdominal Muscle Activation Increases Lumbar Spinal Stability: Analysis of Contributions of Different Muscle Groups.” Clinical Biomechanics 26.8 (2011): 797-803. Web.
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