If you look at a picture of the spine and a bicycle wheel they are very different to the eye. However when you look closely at the components and arrangement of each we can draw some important parallels that enhance our understanding of our body.
The analogy of the bicycle wheel is useful to explain the structure and function of the spine and the “core”. The spine itself is represented by the rim of the wheel and the core muscles are the spokes that sit inside the rim. Without any spokes, a bicycle wheel loses its integrity and collapses under load. Your spine is much the same when you take away the muscles and ligaments that support it. In fact without any support, the spine would buckle under a load of 10kg!
The balance of the spokes is what gives a bicycle wheel its stability. In the same way, balance of the muscles around our spine makes our spine stable and allows it to take load without collapsing. Any changes to the spokes will distort the bicycle rim and lead to uneven pressure in certain areas. If this takes place for too long, the rim will start to break down. This is exactly what happens when we have imbalances in the muscles. Over time the pressure changes that occur result in degeneration of the spine and its components.
So what do we do to fix this?
Unfortunately we often think that we need surgery to repair our damaged rim. While this is a good temporary fix, without addressing the spokes we will continue to wear out more and more of the rim. It is not uncommon to hear of people who have had one spinal surgery needing to have future operations to the areas directly beside the repaired area.
The good news is that research supports that the best way to manage back pain and look after our spine is through exercise. Exercise allows us to fix any imbalances in our spokes and as a result will improve the support for our spine. The best part about this is that it is much more cost effective and carries a much lower risk for potential unwanted effects. What is your favourite back strengthening exercise?