Before you twist
Twist and shout🎶
Before you ever even rotate, the first step is learning how to stabilize your core by engaging the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine. Step two involves not twisting too deeply- at least until this stabilization work has become second nature. If you already suffer from low-back pain, this work is especially important.
Research shows that those with low-back pain tend to lack the ability to engage the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine and also have weak core muscles. The good news? Do the work and engage your core and there’s a good chance you’ll not only stay pain-free as you twist, but you may also have less low-back pain in and out of the studio!
To stabilize anything in the body, you must contract muscles. In this case, you want to focus on the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine. These include the psoas, quadratus lumborum (QL), and gluteal muscles, all of which are connected to the fascia that surrounds the spine. Also crucial: contracting the transversus abdominis (TA) muscle, which creates the “corset” that starts in the front body, wraps around the torso on both sides, and then attaches to the thoracolumbar fascia—the tri-layered connective tissue enclosing muscles associated with the thoracic and lumbar spine. The abdominal oblique muscles, which run along with both sides of the body and rotate your trunk, also attach to this fascial structure.
The thoracolumbar fascia is one of the most important fasciae in the body. This is because it’s responsible for load transfer from the shoulder girdle to the pelvic girdle and is also a key player in maintaining the integrity of the sacroiliac joint (SI)—the spot at the base of the spine where the sacrum joins the ilium bones of the pelvis.
Interestingly, tightening the TA and thoracolumbar fascia increases the pressure inside your abdominal compartment, causing your abdominal organs to press against your lumbar spine to stabilize it even more. (Pregnant women and those with hernias or diastasis recti—in which the abdominal muscles widen away from rather than stay knitted to each other—should check with their doctor before working with twists.)
Engaging these muscles is important because the spine isn’t designed to excessively rotate or flex. In fact, that’s why it has facet joints: cartilage-lined joints that run along its length and between which nerves exit the spinal cord en route to other parts of the body. These facet joints protect against excessive rotation and flexion by limiting the motion of the spine; if you twist your spine without stabilizing first, you not only risk irritating the disks but also the facet joints, leading to further pain.
I hope this helped you on your fitness journey! I have to say, twisting is one of my favorites and it’s also a movement that isn’t performed nearly enough in today’s society (in my opinion), so it really means a lot to me that people get the chance to move correctly and pain-free through them.