The Importance of the TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS (TVA) & Low Back Pain
You may not have heard of the transverse abdominis (TVA) muscle, but it’s an extremely important muscle that acts as a stabilizer for the entire low back and core muscles. It is one of the main core stabilizing muscles of the lumbar spine. A weak TVA is often one of the many reasons people may experience low back pain. If you’re looking to alleviate lower back pain, adding some specific exercises to strengthen your TVA muscle may be helpful.
TVA Muscles Run Deep
The TVA is the deepest layer of abdominal muscles and runs between the ribs and the pelvis, horizontally from front to back. When activated, the TVA muscles create a deep natural “corset” around the internal organs and lumbar spine. This activation flattens the abdominal wall, compresses the viscera (internal organs), supports the internal organs and helps expel air during forced exhalation. One major function of the TVA muscles is to stabilize the spine during movements that involve the arms and legs.
Strengthening Your TVA Muscles
If the TVA muscles are weak, the abdominal wall will begin to bulge forward and the pelvis may rotate forward and increase lordosis (inward curvature) in the spine. This can result after pregnancy and may also be associated with weight gain or lack of exercise. Studies have shown that weak TVA muscles may be to blame for lower back pain.
How to Activate the Transverse Abdominis (TVA)
Bracing refers to an isometric contraction of the TVA by contracting the muscles of the abdomen and holding them tight without movement. When bracing, imagine that you are getting ready for a punch to your belly, or preparing to lift a heavy object. The goal is to tighten the muscles without sucking in, or expanding your abdomen. To activate the TVA with bracing, you will maintain an isometric hold in this position for 6 to 10 seconds. Release and repeat several times.
Hollowing refers to a technique to activate the TVA that occurs as you suck in and compress the abdomen. To perform this technique, contract your abdomen and pull your belly button back toward your spine to make your abdomen as small as possible. Once you’ve completed this movement, maintain an isometric hold of this compressed position for 6 to 10 seconds. Release and repeat
Bracing for Strengthening TVA Muscles
Bracing has been found to be more effective in stabilizing the lumbar spine than hollowing. Bracing results in the contraction of the entire core muscle group, and particularly the TVA. The best way to use the bracing technique is to contract and hold the abdomen (don’t suck in the gut as in hollowing) and continue to breathe in and out. You can practice bracing while sitting, walking, or lying down. The bracing technique can also be used during abdominal and core workouts.
***Make an appointment TODAY w/ Gold’s Gym of Norton’s Physical Therapist, Bridget Faucher, PT, DPT, OCS. Schedule a Comprehensive Evaluation that will include Education on how to properly recruit your TVA through safe and effective exercises to prevent and decrease low back pain!!! See the Front Desk for Details or to Set up a Consultation w/ Bridget!***