Stabilization Exercises

Dr. Stebbing teaches stabilization exercises to promote the motor control and stability essential to reducing pain, avoiding re-injury, and preventing arthritis while promoting movement within a full range of motion.

Rehabilitation from an injury, illness or other event can be tedious, with patients often eager to plunge back into their busy lives. Dr. Stebbing teaches stabilization exercises to improve the motor control and stability essential to reducing pain, avoiding re-injury, and preventing arthritis, and to promote movement within a full range of motion.

The exercises taught in Dr. Stebbing’s office are based on research from Australia. They promote the healing of injuries related to postural or stability muscles, and the subsequent strengthening of these muscles. The occurrence of this type of injury is often related to altered biomechanics (i.e., posture) rather than a specific event. Typically these injuries worsen over time, resulting in pain without an obvious cause. The goal of these exercises is to isolate weakened stabilizer muscles and teach them to do their job again. Patients can learn to incorporate muscle recruitment into everyday activities, teaching these stabilizer muscles to fire as needed. Being mindful of body position is also essential to rehabilitation.

... motor control or stability at the level of each individual joint is absolutely essential to prevent degeneration of the joint (arthritis), encourage movement through a full range of motion, and reduce pain.

Rehabilitation from an injury, illness, or other event can be a tedious process. Patients are often eager to plunge back into lifting weights and working on cardiovascular endurance, giving them the sense that they are doing something good for themselves. Dr. Stebbing supports this return to exercise with one caveat: the body position must be perfect (or nearly so) to avoid re-injury.

The exercises Dr. Stebbing teaches are based on the concept that motor control or stability at the level of each individual joint is absolutely essential to prevent degeneration of the joint (arthritis), encourage movement through a full range of motion, and reduce pain. One way to organize muscles is by their function: stabilizers and mobilizers. Stabilizers are postural muscles. They are ‘on’ all the time at low levels. Stabilizers are responsible for holding joints correctly in space. Examples include: multifidi, part of the psoas, external obliques, serratus anterior, rotator cuff muscles, and popliteus. Mobilizer muscles, on the other hand, are responsible for moving us through space. Examples include: rectus abdominus, latissiumus dorsi, piriformis, quadriceps, hamstrings, and rhomboids. Typically stabilizers are slow twitch muscles and mobilizers are fast twitch. Some muscles have more than one function.

Exercise can be adapted or intensified as patients gain stability. If, however, this aspect of rehabilitation is not achieved, mobilizer muscles will remain dominant, attempting to do the work of stabilizers while creating muscle imbalance and problems with control (instability), a recipe for re-injury. This injury pattern is common among high level athletes and non-athletes alike.

32 year old Emily is an active young mother. She has constant pain in her shoulders and neck. Her posture is with her chin out, head forward and shoulders curved forward. Emily would benefit from exercises to strengthen the core muscles of her shoulders, neck, back and abdomen.


19 year old Greg is a linebacker for his football team. He has low level back pain. On evaluation, he is unable to do a slow sit up or raise one hand while he maintains himself in a push-up position. Greg’s core strength is lacking.  He would benefit from low level core exercises.

Pat is a 58 year old computer programmer and avid yoga practitioner. He has constant right shoulder pain that is affecting his yoga practice. Greg has lost his ability to hold good posture during the day and notices that he hunches over the computer. He would benefit from postural or core stability exercises.