The importance of a neutral spine!
- Lie on your back with your knees up.
- Practice tilting your pelvis so that your pubic bone tilts up and your waist flattens in to the floor, and then tilt the other way so that you arch slightly. (Avoid this is you feel any pain or have a back injury).
- Now find a position somewhere between the two with your hipbone and pubic bone level, so that you can imagine balancing a cup of tea on your tummy without spilling it. There should be a small gap under your back. This is your neutral, and is the most stress free position for your back!
The lumbar spine, or lower back, can be stressed if not held in this neutral posture.
This position is also normally adopted when standing and walking. When the back is bent for sustained periods, the loading of the spine is increased, and the stabilising muscles are held on a stretch and are therefore weakened. Larger muscles are then forced to take over and the wrong muscles start doing the wrong job. This leads to a faulty muscle recruitment pattern.
Sustained postures out of the neutral position can lead to stress and fatigue and sometimes failure to the structures in the lower back. For example; sitting on a soft settee causes the lower back to flex, sitting with your feet up can accentuate this even further. Lying in bed watching television, or sitting in bed using a laptop or reading, also takes the lower back out of neutral position. If this position is adopted on a regular basis, and for long periods of time, damage to local tissues ligaments, nerves and muscles can occur.
Good posture in sitting, standing and lying is therefore of great importance.
The ability to use the correct muscles and joint control to enable you to return back to a neutral position when rising (from sitting or from lying) is paramount. This ensures that when standing or walking you are able to return to a stress free posture.
Physiotherapy can improve both the mobility and function, and together with exercise can improve joint mobility and restore function.
Pilates teaches you to use your core stabilising muscle recruitment. Stabilising muscles should ideally be works at less than 25% of their full effort because they are deep postural muscles which need endurance. The importance of using these deep stabilising muscles is becoming increasingly clear in medical research.