Laughter for Spinal Stabilization?

Reference:Wagner H, et al Laughing: a demanding exercise for trunk muscles. J Mot Behav. 2014;46(1):33-7.

A patient asks you, “What’s the best exercise to strengthen my abs and my core?”

You reply with a deep belly laugh. The patient stares at you as if you’ve gone mad!

This 2014 study placed surface EMGs on the trunk muscles and compared their activation during abdominal crunch, trunk extension and laughter yoga exercises.

Result #1: The internal oblique muscle had significantly greater activity during laughter when compared to the two other traditional exercises.

Result #2: The external oblique muscle activity during laughter was similar to the abdominal crunch exercise.

Result #3: The multifidus, erector spinae, and rectus abdominis muscles were at 50% activation during laughter.

Conclusion: This is the first study to objectively demonstrate the positive effects of laughter on trunk muscle activation.

Clinical Relevance: Recommend that patients with lumbar motor control impairment laugh for no reason! Or, if they are into that stuff, join a Laughter Yoga group. Laughter certainly has many other positive physiological benefits.

Limitations: Although laughter seems to contract the trunk muscles, we cannot assume that this will transfer into functional neuromuscular activation for spine stability.

Personal Comment: It seems obvious that the abs contract during a deep belly laugh. I’ve certainly experienced a sore belly after a good laugh and have felt the ab workout!

However, I had never thought about the multifidus and erector spinae also activating during laughter.

Posted on: March 10, 2014

Categories: Lumbar Spine , Relevant Physical Therapy Articles

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