Malfunction of the Deep Muscle Corset System

The Deep Muscle Corset System - My Center of Power

Our deep muscle corset system (DMCS) is a deep muscle synergy consisting of the transversus abdominis (=TrA), the deep fibres of the lumbar multifidus, the diaphragm and the pelvic floor. Here at Bodyhood Pilates, we also refer to it as our “power engine”.

The Function of the Deep Muscle Corset System

picture1_0.jpgThe deep muscle corset system (DMCS) provides segmental stability to the pelvis and spine by inhibiting intervertebral and segmental motions in the pelvis and the spine. It is activated by using the pelvic floor muscles to draw in the abdominal wall (TrA) from the pubic bone to the navel in a zipping-up motion. Hereby the deep fibres of the multifidus and the diaphragm are engaged. It is their role to contribute to intra-abdominal pressure, and to therefore help to prevent the displacement of the abdominal viscera, so that the transversus abdominis (TrA) can increase its tension in the thoracolumbar fascia.

We have to take in consideration that the deep muscle corset will not be activated appropriately if superficial muscles - such as the rectus abdominis, obliquus externis abdominis, the lateral fibres of the quadratus lomborum and part of the erector spinae - predominate the activation of the deep muscle corset system itself (Richardson, Hodges & Hides, 2004).

Common Occurrences
with People with Lower Back Pain

Research has shown that people with lower back pain

  • can successfully draw in the abdominal wall but are unable to maintain the contraction after they resume breathing.
  • have a certain level of immobility in the ribcage.
  • have weak control of the transversus abdominis (TrA).
  • have a marked decrease in the bibasal expansion of their ribcage.
  • have difficulty in activating the transversus abdominis (TrA) appropriately if oblique abdominal muscles are being activated during the breathing cycle.
  • have an inability to develop the corset action on the command to draw in the abdominal wall.
  • have an inability to effectively make use of the corset action to stabilize the pelvis in neutral pelvic position.
  • have structural and geometrical abnormalities in the multifidus - the multifidus are smaller on one side, and they will then have pain on that exact side, where it is shown to be smaller.

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The Deep Muscle Corset System
Provides Segmental Spinal and Pelvic Stability by

  • increasing tension in the anterior fascia of the transversus abdominis (TrA) concentrically.
  • increasing thickness and diameter of the transversus abdominis (TrA).
  • reducing width on both sides of the waistline through an action resembling the tightening of a “corset”.
  • stiffening the sacro-iliac joint.
  • "stiffening the lumbar spine segmentally" (Richardson et al., 2004).

3 Important Scientific Facts
About the Deep Muscle Corset System

  1. The deep segmental muscles control spinal motion and have the ability to control individual segments with a minimum effect on the ribcage - thus minimizing conflicts with respiration (Richardson et al., 2004).
  2. The deep muscle corset system controls the lumbopelvic stability in advance of the demand placed upon it.
  3. When the deep muscle corset system contracts successfully it reduces the circumference of the abdominal wall and flattens it in the lower region to increase intra-abdominal pressure - which functions like an internal oblong balloon in front of the spine that places a lengthening force from the diaphragm down to the pelvis (Richardson et al., 2004).

Deep Muscle Synergy

The muscles of the deep muscle corset system work together in a coordinated manner to provide segmental stability for the spine and pelvis; each muscle is influenced by the other. So, contraction of one muscle group will initiate co-contraction of another muscle group; provided that the superficial non-weight bearing muscles are not engaged prematurely. The deep muscle synergy is another way to describe the deep muscle corset system but, mostly here at Bodyhood, we use the term “power engine”.

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Research on the Deep Muscle Corset System

has shown that

  • activity of the transversus abdominis (TrA) often accompanies activity of the pelvic floor muscles, and vice versa.
  • the effect of the transversus abdominis (TrA) on the spine is dependent on the integrated activity of the diaphragm, pelvic floor and deeper fibres of the multifidus.
  • unless activity of the diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles accompanies that of the transversus abdominis, the contraction of the transversus abdominis will simply displace the abdominal contents with a minimum effect on intra-abdominal pressure and fascial tension (Richardson et al., 2004).