“The core muscles provide stability for the entire body as it moves,” @ClevelandClinic

cleveland evrything starts wit your core

If you’re planning to start an exercise program and wondering where to begin, start with your core first, says physical therapist Brittany Smith, DPT. People often think of the core muscles as being the abdominal muscles, but the core includes the muscles in the abdomen, back and hips, all working together as a group.

“The core muscles provide stability for the entire body as it moves,” says Smith. “These muscles are activated when you stand up, turn, bend, reach, twist, stoop and move in most other ways. Everything starts with your core.”

Strong core muscles help you maintain good posture, while weak ones can lead to slouching and slumping. Poor posture can be a cause of aches and pain, especially in the back.

Getting started with your core

To get your core muscles in shape, you need to exercise.

“Our bodies were made to move, so any physical activity is really important,” says Smith.

She recommends these specific core-strengthening exercises below.

The first one engages the deep muscles in the abdomen, called the transverse abdominis. “These muscles help hold us in a better position to stabilize our core, thereby stabilizing our arms and legs,” says Smith.

“The more you work on these muscles, the more it will become second nature to hold these muscles tight when you’re lifting grocery bags, doing yard work or any other kind of physical activity,” says Smith. This will help support your body.

Other muscles that tend to be weak are the gluteus maximus in the buttocks, and the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus on the side of the hip. The bridge and clamshell exercises can help strengthen these muscles.

Smith emphasizes that getting the proper position of these exercises correct is more important than the number of repetitions you do. “It’s better to take your time, maybe do fewer reps, but with better quality,” she says. For that reason, it can be helpful to have the guidance of a physical therapist to get started.

Move on from the core

Core exercises are the starting point of overall fitness because you need to hold those muscles engaged while you strengthen other muscles, such as the biceps in the arms or the quadriceps in the legs.

Smith suggests setting short-term goals (for about a month) and then more long-term goals. Once you have achieved short-term goals, such as getting around more easily, add other types of weight-training or resistance exercises to build muscle elsewhere.

With any exercise you do, always listen to your body, warns Smith. If you have pain other than muscle burn, take it easy. Reduce the number of repetitions, the weight or the duration of the exercises. Then build up gradually. “You don’t have to be in pain to make gains,” she says.

Beginner exercises for core strength

For each of the following, work up to one to two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions once a day.

Abdominal bracing

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles, and press the arch of your back down toward the floor, pulling your belly button toward your spine. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Make sure your lower back stays flat on the floor. Relax and repeat.

Bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor with your arms at your sides. Squeeze your abdominal and buttocks muscles, push your heels into the floor and slowly lift your buttocks and hips off the floor. Keep your back straight. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.

Clamshell

Lie on your side with knees bent in line with your hips and back, draw up the top knee while keeping contact of your feet together as shown. Don’t let your pelvis roll back during the lifting movement. Hold for 5 seconds.

Planning to Start Exercising? Start with Your Core First

A Strong Core is Your Best Guard Against Back Pain @ClevelandClinic

A group of adults are taking a fitness class together at the gym. They are working out on exercise mats and are holding a high plank.
A group of adults are taking a fitness class together at the gym. They are working out on exercise mats and are holding a high plank.

A physical therapist answers your questions

If you suffer from back pain, you’ve probably heard that strengthening your core can bring you some relief. But is this always true? And if so, how do you do it? We spoke with Cleveland Clinic physical therapist Patti Mariano, DPT, to find out.

Q: What is your core?

When most people think about the core of the body they think of the abdominal or six-pack area just below the ribs. While the abdominal muscles are an important part of the core, we consider other areas important, too.

Your core includes:

  • Front abdominal muscles — the rectus abdominis
  • Muscles along the side of your body — the internal and external obliques
  • A deep muscle that wraps around the front — the transverse abdominis
  • Muscles in your back that are located between your spine bones and run along your spine — the erector spinae and multifidi

Your core also includes the diaphragm and muscles of the pelvic floor. I also consider the gluteal muscles as core muscles.

Q: What is the relationship between core strength and back pain?

Theoretically, if your muscles around the low back are weak, your body will rely more on passive structures, including ligaments — the tissue that connects bone to bone — as well as the spinal bones or discs, which lie between the spinal bones, for stability, which can cause pain.

But some studies have shown that specific core exercises are not any more beneficial than general exercise for low back pain. What we know is that exercise in general can help, and focusing on core muscles may provide some additional benefit.

Q: What are some exercises for the core that can help with back pain?

Here are my top five:

  • Side plank — Sit on the floor with your right hand below your right shoulder and feet stacked. Lift your body, keeping your legs long, abdominals engaged and feet stacked. Hold. Repeat on the other side. You can modify this pose by dropping your bottom knee to the floor for extra support.
  • Plank — Kneel on all fours. Pull in your abdomen and step your feet behind you until your legs are straight. Keep your hands directly under your shoulders and your neck straight. Hold your abdomen and legs tight and avoid letting your lower back sag. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds. You can modify this pose by lowering your knees.
  • Bird dog — Kneel  on all fours. Reach one arm out in front of you, draw in your abdomen, and extend the opposite leg long behind you. Repeat on the other side.
  • Scissors — Lie on your back with your arms at your sides and legs pointed straight into the air above your hips. Press your lower back into the mat and tighten your abdomen. Lower your right leg until it’s a few inches from the floor. Raise your right leg up and begin lowering your left leg the same way. Continue switching right and left.
  • Upward dog — Lie face down with head slightly lifted and hands palm-down under your shoulders. Point your toes. Exhale, then press through your hands and the tops of your feet and raise your body and legs up until your arms are straight and your body and legs are off the ground. Keep your neck relaxed and long and thigh muscles tight as you hold and breathe.

For the plank exercises, start by holding them for 15 seconds to 30 seconds. For bird dog and scissors, try three sets of eight or 10 repetitions. For upward dog, do one set of 10 repetitions.

Q: Can you injure your back by trying to strengthen your core?

Any exercise performed incorrectly, whether it is core-strengthening or otherwise, has the potential to cause discomfort.

Twisting exercises or even incorrectly completing the exercises cited above can cause pain in the low back. But it’s highly unlikely that one repetition of an exercise will seriously harm your body, unless it’s an exercise using a very heavy weight.

The best way to keep your body safe is to listen to body cues such as pain during and immediately after an exercise, and the next day after exercising.

Q: When should you talk to a doctor about your back pain?

If any of the following is going on you should consult with your doctor:

  • Your pain has been going on for longer than a month, despite resting from activities that make it worse.
  • Your pain is getting worse.
  • Your pain wakes you from sleep.
  • Your pain is in your low back but also is going down one or both of your legs.
  • You notice that one leg is becoming weaker than the other.

Q: Where should you turn if you want help in creating a plan to address back pain?

Physical therapists train as musculoskeletal experts — they are the experts on muscles, bones and human movement. These professionals are the most qualified, aside from an orthopedic doctor, to assess back problems.

Since there are many factors that impact low back pain and many types of low back pain, it is a good idea to visit at least one time with a physical therapist for an evaluation and subsequent plan of care. This will give you an individually tailored plan with exercises that progress safely.

The idea of core strengthening, while beneficial, is just one piece of the low back pain puzzle.

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2016/07/strong-core-best-guard-back-pain/

 

6 Ways To Help Your Baby Self-Soothe and Find Calm

Cleveland Clinic

@ClevelandClinic

·

A baby who can self-soothe will fall asleep on their own and play calmly without your intervention. It’s a process, and a skill, that will help throughout their lives. Follow these tips to get started.

It’s naptime — thank goodness. But your baby isn’t having it. They cry. They fuss. So, you bounce them, rock them or even drive around town until they fall asleep.

It’s the question on the top of your mind (and you’re not alone): When — and how — will my baby learn to self-soothe and calm down without so much effort?

Pediatrician Matthew Badgett, MD, answers this important question, and shares ways to help your baby learn to self-soothe. 

Why is self-soothing important? 

When your baby self-soothes, they can calm down on their own and they:  

  • Fall asleep without your help. 
  • Fall back asleep if they wake up in the middle of a nap or during the night. 
  • Sit or play calmly by themselves.  

But self-soothing isn’t just for little ones. It’s an important skill throughout your life. Whether you realize it or not, you use your own self-soothing methods to feel better when you’re stressed or anxious. 

“Self-soothing is a way of regulating your emotions,” Dr. Badgett explains. “Babies might suck their thumb or hold a stuffed animal. Adults might listen to music, take a walk or do yoga. The type of self-soothing you use changes throughout your life, but it’s a key part of your emotional health.” 

When can my baby learn to self-soothe? 

Every exhausted parent wants to know: When will my baby lie in their crib and drift off to sleep without my help? Or When can I put them in their bouncy seat for five minutes without screams of protest? 

“In general, don’t try to teach your baby to self-soothe before they are 3 months old,” advises Dr. Badgett. “Newborns need you to help soothe them because they don’t have the ability to control their emotions. Learning emotional control is a process that takes years, so don’t expect too much from an infant or toddler.”  

And self-soothing is a gradual process — not a switch you can flip. “Self-soothing is really co-soothing because the parent is still involved,” says Dr. Badgett. “Your baby plays a more active role in soothing, but you set them up for success. You figure out how your baby can calm down with less of your help.” 

Self-soothing tips and techniques 

If your baby is past the newborn stage but still cries relentlessly when you put them down, there is hope. These tips can help your baby gain self-soothing skills: 

1. Meet your baby’s needs first 

Before you assume that your baby is just cranky, review their list of needs. Your baby won’t be able to self-soothe if: 

  • Their diaper is wet or soiled. 
  • Their clothing is too hot or too cold for the environment. 
  • There are too many distractions in the room, like a noisy TV or other children. 
  • They have gas or need to be burped. 
  • They’re hungry or thirsty. 
  • They’re overtired.  

After you’ve ruled out those issues, move on to the next steps.

2. Set a schedule 

Babies love routine. Try to put your baby to bed at the same time every day. Don’t skip naps or keep your baby up late. A schedule keeps them from becoming overtired — that’s when any hope of self-soothing goes out the window.  

“If your baby goes to bed at the same times each day, their body clock will get used to it,” Dr. Badgett notes. “Then, they will start to feel sleepy right at naptime or bedtime. Babies that are drowsy, but not exhausted, are better able to fall asleep on their own.” 

3. Use white noise 

The sound of a fan or a white noise machine can be music to your baby’s ears. “Many babies prefer a steady sound over a perfectly quiet room,” Dr. Badgett says. “It helps drown out other sounds that could startle them, and it has a calming effect.” 

Turn on the white noise machine when it’s bedtime. This can serve as a cue for your baby to learn when it’s time for dreamland. 

4. Stay close without picking them up 

After you place your baby in their crib or seat, don’t leave right away.  

“If you give your baby some attention without holding them, they learn that being put down isn’t a bad thing,” Dr. Badgett explains. “Talk to them, or gently put your hand on their belly. After a few minutes, calmly leave the room.” 

5. Try a pacifier  

Pacifiers are a useful tool for babies under the age of 1. But use caution. It can be hard to take the paci away from a baby who can’t calm down without it.  

“Pacifiers help young babies learn to self-soothe before they learn other techniques,” Dr. Badgett says. “But limit pacifier use to naptime and bedtime. Use them with other methods, like white noise and a consistent routine. That way, your baby won’t learn to rely on the pacifier alone.” 

6. Wean them off feeding to sleep 

It’s normal for young babies to fall asleep at the bottle or breast. But as your baby grows, they need to learn other ways to drift off. 

“Don’t feed your older baby right at naptime with the sole purpose of getting them to sleep,” Dr. Badgett suggests. “They might end up overeating or relying on the nipple even when they’re already full.”  

You can avoid the feed-to-sleep method if you: 

  • Stop feeding if you see your baby getting sleepy. 
  • Gently burp your baby to wake them up a little if they fell asleep feeding. Then, use the other self-soothing techniques to help them calm back down. 

With a little persistence, perseverance and patience on your end, your little one could be self-soothing to sleep in no time.

6 Ways To Help Your Baby Self-Soothe and Find Calm

Cleveland Clinic

@ClevelandClinic

·

A baby who can self-soothe will fall asleep on their own and play calmly without your intervention. It’s a process, and a skill, that will help throughout their lives. Follow these tips to get started.

It’s naptime — thank goodness. But your baby isn’t having it. They cry. They fuss. So, you bounce them, rock them or even drive around town until they fall asleep.

It’s the question on the top of your mind (and you’re not alone): When — and how — will my baby learn to self-soothe and calm down without so much effort?

Pediatrician Matthew Badgett, MD, answers this important question, and shares ways to help your baby learn to self-soothe. 

Why is self-soothing important? 

When your baby self-soothes, they can calm down on their own and they:  

  • Fall asleep without your help. 
  • Fall back asleep if they wake up in the middle of a nap or during the night. 
  • Sit or play calmly by themselves.  

But self-soothing isn’t just for little ones. It’s an important skill throughout your life. Whether you realize it or not, you use your own self-soothing methods to feel better when you’re stressed or anxious. 

“Self-soothing is a way of regulating your emotions,” Dr. Badgett explains. “Babies might suck their thumb or hold a stuffed animal. Adults might listen to music, take a walk or do yoga. The type of self-soothing you use changes throughout your life, but it’s a key part of your emotional health.” 

When can my baby learn to self-soothe? 

Every exhausted parent wants to know: When will my baby lie in their crib and drift off to sleep without my help? Or When can I put them in their bouncy seat for five minutes without screams of protest? 

“In general, don’t try to teach your baby to self-soothe before they are 3 months old,” advises Dr. Badgett. “Newborns need you to help soothe them because they don’t have the ability to control their emotions. Learning emotional control is a process that takes years, so don’t expect too much from an infant or toddler.”  

And self-soothing is a gradual process — not a switch you can flip. “Self-soothing is really co-soothing because the parent is still involved,” says Dr. Badgett. “Your baby plays a more active role in soothing, but you set them up for success. You figure out how your baby can calm down with less of your help.” 

Self-soothing tips and techniques 

If your baby is past the newborn stage but still cries relentlessly when you put them down, there is hope. These tips can help your baby gain self-soothing skills: 

1. Meet your baby’s needs first 

Before you assume that your baby is just cranky, review their list of needs. Your baby won’t be able to self-soothe if: 

  • Their diaper is wet or soiled. 
  • Their clothing is too hot or too cold for the environment. 
  • There are too many distractions in the room, like a noisy TV or other children. 
  • They have gas or need to be burped. 
  • They’re hungry or thirsty. 
  • They’re overtired.  

After you’ve ruled out those issues, move on to the next steps.

2. Set a schedule 

Babies love routine. Try to put your baby to bed at the same time every day. Don’t skip naps or keep your baby up late. A schedule keeps them from becoming overtired — that’s when any hope of self-soothing goes out the window.  

“If your baby goes to bed at the same times each day, their body clock will get used to it,” Dr. Badgett notes. “Then, they will start to feel sleepy right at naptime or bedtime. Babies that are drowsy, but not exhausted, are better able to fall asleep on their own.” 

3. Use white noise 

The sound of a fan or a white noise machine can be music to your baby’s ears. “Many babies prefer a steady sound over a perfectly quiet room,” Dr. Badgett says. “It helps drown out other sounds that could startle them, and it has a calming effect.” 

Turn on the white noise machine when it’s bedtime. This can serve as a cue for your baby to learn when it’s time for dreamland. 

4. Stay close without picking them up 

After you place your baby in their crib or seat, don’t leave right away.  

“If you give your baby some attention without holding them, they learn that being put down isn’t a bad thing,” Dr. Badgett explains. “Talk to them, or gently put your hand on their belly. After a few minutes, calmly leave the room.” 

5. Try a pacifier  

Pacifiers are a useful tool for babies under the age of 1. But use caution. It can be hard to take the paci away from a baby who can’t calm down without it.  

“Pacifiers help young babies learn to self-soothe before they learn other techniques,” Dr. Badgett says. “But limit pacifier use to naptime and bedtime. Use them with other methods, like white noise and a consistent routine. That way, your baby won’t learn to rely on the pacifier alone.” 

6. Wean them off feeding to sleep 

It’s normal for young babies to fall asleep at the bottle or breast. But as your baby grows, they need to learn other ways to drift off. 

“Don’t feed your older baby right at naptime with the sole purpose of getting them to sleep,” Dr. Badgett suggests. “They might end up overeating or relying on the nipple even when they’re already full.”  

You can avoid the feed-to-sleep method if you: 

  • Stop feeding if you see your baby getting sleepy. 
  • Gently burp your baby to wake them up a little if they fell asleep feeding. Then, use the other self-soothing techniques to help them calm back down. 

With a little persistence, perseverance and patience on your end, your little one could be self-soothing to sleep in no time.

6 Ways To Help Your Baby Self-Soothe and Find Calm

Cleveland Clinic

@ClevelandClinic

·

A baby who can self-soothe will fall asleep on their own and play calmly without your intervention. It’s a process, and a skill, that will help throughout their lives. Follow these tips to get started.

It’s naptime — thank goodness. But your baby isn’t having it. They cry. They fuss. So, you bounce them, rock them or even drive around town until they fall asleep.

It’s the question on the top of your mind (and you’re not alone): When — and how — will my baby learn to self-soothe and calm down without so much effort?

Pediatrician Matthew Badgett, MD, answers this important question, and shares ways to help your baby learn to self-soothe. 

Why is self-soothing important? 

When your baby self-soothes, they can calm down on their own and they:  

  • Fall asleep without your help. 
  • Fall back asleep if they wake up in the middle of a nap or during the night. 
  • Sit or play calmly by themselves.  

But self-soothing isn’t just for little ones. It’s an important skill throughout your life. Whether you realize it or not, you use your own self-soothing methods to feel better when you’re stressed or anxious. 

“Self-soothing is a way of regulating your emotions,” Dr. Badgett explains. “Babies might suck their thumb or hold a stuffed animal. Adults might listen to music, take a walk or do yoga. The type of self-soothing you use changes throughout your life, but it’s a key part of your emotional health.” 

When can my baby learn to self-soothe? 

Every exhausted parent wants to know: When will my baby lie in their crib and drift off to sleep without my help? Or When can I put them in their bouncy seat for five minutes without screams of protest? 

“In general, don’t try to teach your baby to self-soothe before they are 3 months old,” advises Dr. Badgett. “Newborns need you to help soothe them because they don’t have the ability to control their emotions. Learning emotional control is a process that takes years, so don’t expect too much from an infant or toddler.”  

And self-soothing is a gradual process — not a switch you can flip. “Self-soothing is really co-soothing because the parent is still involved,” says Dr. Badgett. “Your baby plays a more active role in soothing, but you set them up for success. You figure out how your baby can calm down with less of your help.” 

Self-soothing tips and techniques 

If your baby is past the newborn stage but still cries relentlessly when you put them down, there is hope. These tips can help your baby gain self-soothing skills: 

1. Meet your baby’s needs first 

Before you assume that your baby is just cranky, review their list of needs. Your baby won’t be able to self-soothe if: 

  • Their diaper is wet or soiled. 
  • Their clothing is too hot or too cold for the environment. 
  • There are too many distractions in the room, like a noisy TV or other children. 
  • They have gas or need to be burped. 
  • They’re hungry or thirsty. 
  • They’re overtired.  

After you’ve ruled out those issues, move on to the next steps.

2. Set a schedule 

Babies love routine. Try to put your baby to bed at the same time every day. Don’t skip naps or keep your baby up late. A schedule keeps them from becoming overtired — that’s when any hope of self-soothing goes out the window.  

“If your baby goes to bed at the same times each day, their body clock will get used to it,” Dr. Badgett notes. “Then, they will start to feel sleepy right at naptime or bedtime. Babies that are drowsy, but not exhausted, are better able to fall asleep on their own.” 

3. Use white noise 

The sound of a fan or a white noise machine can be music to your baby’s ears. “Many babies prefer a steady sound over a perfectly quiet room,” Dr. Badgett says. “It helps drown out other sounds that could startle them, and it has a calming effect.” 

Turn on the white noise machine when it’s bedtime. This can serve as a cue for your baby to learn when it’s time for dreamland. 

4. Stay close without picking them up 

After you place your baby in their crib or seat, don’t leave right away.  

“If you give your baby some attention without holding them, they learn that being put down isn’t a bad thing,” Dr. Badgett explains. “Talk to them, or gently put your hand on their belly. After a few minutes, calmly leave the room.” 

5. Try a pacifier  

Pacifiers are a useful tool for babies under the age of 1. But use caution. It can be hard to take the paci away from a baby who can’t calm down without it.  

“Pacifiers help young babies learn to self-soothe before they learn other techniques,” Dr. Badgett says. “But limit pacifier use to naptime and bedtime. Use them with other methods, like white noise and a consistent routine. That way, your baby won’t learn to rely on the pacifier alone.” 

6. Wean them off feeding to sleep 

It’s normal for young babies to fall asleep at the bottle or breast. But as your baby grows, they need to learn other ways to drift off. 

“Don’t feed your older baby right at naptime with the sole purpose of getting them to sleep,” Dr. Badgett suggests. “They might end up overeating or relying on the nipple even when they’re already full.”  

You can avoid the feed-to-sleep method if you: 

  • Stop feeding if you see your baby getting sleepy. 
  • Gently burp your baby to wake them up a little if they fell asleep feeding. Then, use the other self-soothing techniques to help them calm back down. 

With a little persistence, perseverance and patience on your end, your little one could be self-soothing to sleep in no time.