KEYS TO FITNESS: How a Strong Core Can Help Reduce Knee Problems

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YONEMOTO, SHEILA-colorBy SHEILA YONEMOTO, PT

Recently I attended a physical therapy seminar focusing on core/trunk stability and was shocked to find that a young, trim, healthy-looking woman, who also happened to be a physical therapist, had a very unstable core and back pain.

I have also heard of situations with young girls playing very competitive soccer having weak and unstable core muscles. I was dismayed to learn that in three to four years, female soccer players have a high percentage of knee injuries. I now feel very strongly that soccer for females should be banned, unless something is done to stop the progression of knee injuries in young girls.

The current culture of using cell phones, tablets, video games, backpacks and other sedentary activities also contributes to poor posture, muscle weakness, muscle imbalances and early onset of arthritis, pain and nerve entrapment. What happened to all the moms and teachers who insisted on sitting up straight and encouraged getting out and moving?

I am seeing 30-year-olds with very slumped postures, having arm pain, jaw pain, neck pain, back pain, and headaches.

My optometrist mentioned to me that there is a direct correlation between eye strain and poor trunk tone, strength and posture, due to lack of activity, which often affects a child’s ability to learn. It’s harder to focus the eyes when the trunk can’t stay stable for long periods of time, which is what it is supposed to do, which makes reading more difficult and, ultimately, learning becomes harder.

If this problem affects a young, relatively healthy and more active population, trunk or core instability probably affects many mature adults as well. This can contribute to balance problems, breathing difficulties, incontinence, and lower energy levels.

The good news is that something can be done about it. It might take a little work to bring awareness to the muscles that are responsible for keeping us upright, but it will result in using smaller amounts of energy and decreasing degenerative changes in joints.

Physical therapists are experts in observing posture and movement and can guide people in getting stronger, moving around more efficiently and decreasing wear and tear on the body. Exercise classes are great for this as well, and getting a customized program to address specific problems is one way to make sure that imbalances are corrected first.

Gym classes often focus on the larger movement muscles of the trunk and don’t pay attention to the smaller and less visible postural muscles that work most of the time.

Moms use to say “stand up straight” and sometimes it turned into nagging that left emotional scars. I have to say Mom was right. Instead of rebelling against standing up straight, switch your thinking to developing a good stable core. You will have more energy, look younger, have better balance and may reduce a lot of strain on your knees and your eyes.

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Sheila Yonemoto, P.T., has been a physical therapist for more than 30 years, specializing in integrative manual therapy, utilizing a holistic approach. She can be reached at Yonemoto Physical Therapy, 55 S. Raymond Ave., Suite 100, Alhambra, CA 91801. She also offers a qigong “Chinese energy” exercise class. Your first class is free. Call (626) 576-0591 for more information or visit www.yonemoto.com.

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