Neutral Spine

In the United States, low-back pain is the number one reason why people receive care from physical therapists (1). What’s behind all the pain and what can you do to keep your back healthy and safe?

While there may be a variety of reasons causing this widespread problem—too much sitting, excessive spinal flexion (2), lack of movement, tight soft tissue, lack of proper hydration, stress—often times a lack of awareness and education about how we position ourselves is one huge piece of the puzzle.

 Don't scare people with lousy spine position. The first step to changing your habits is to become aware of them.

Don't scare people with lousy spine position. The first step to changing your habits is to become aware of them.

Most people sit at their desks, text on their phones, or slouch in their cars while driving. All static positions, all likely done with poor posture.

In order to realign yourself closer towards the optimal neutral position you need to understand what that position looks like and how to maintain it under a variety of circumstances (sitting, standing, bending down, etc.).

Check out the following video for a brief tutorial on neutral spine and then let’s regroup below:

Now that you’ve gotten a visual, here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Neutral spine position is a bit different for everyone due to a variety of reasons
    • Subtleties in skeletal design, soft-tissue length differences, repetitive use of the body in particular positions, occupational stresses, etc.
  • Because of individual differences there is a range of what’s considered optimal positioning
  • When doing rotations—i.e. trunk rotation with cables or bands—keep your shoulders and hips moving at the same rate in the same direction to keep the spine neutral.

Are you sitting up straighter now?

 

Keep on Movin’

-CA

 

References:

  1. Jette, A.M., Smith, K., Haley, S.M., Davis, K.D. (1994). Physical therapy episodes of care for patients with low back pain. Physical Therapy, 74, 101–110.
  2. McGill, S. (2004).  Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance.  Stuart McGill: Waterloo, CN.