A common phrase that you will hear in a Pilates class is "neutral spine". However this spinal position is becoming more prevalent when training in general & in everyday life. For people who have suffered back pain due to the discs in the low back, learning how to move with a neutral spine will be crucial in their long-term recovery & in prevention of future injury. Utilising neutral spine when moving into positions such as sitting, bending forward, picking items up from the floor & lifting from the floor could protect the low back & restrict the likelihood of injury. Understanding how to find neutral spine is a fundamental part of correctly performing certain Pilates exercises, both within a class & when using these exercises as part of a rehabilitation programme.
Neutral spine is the position of your spine when it is naturally curved through the neck, middle & lower spinal regions. The three spinal curves are the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back) & lumbar (low back). The neck curves gently inwards (lordosis), the mid-back curves outwards (kyphosis), with the low back also curving inward (lordosis). To find your neutral spine, follow these instructions:
1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor & heels in line with your buttocks. Rest your arms alongside your body with your palms facing down. Make sure your heels, toes, knees & hips are aligned.
2. Relax your shoulders & make sure your weight is balanced evenly across your shoulders & hips. Let your ribcage, neck & jaw relax.
3. Tuck your pelvis & press your lower spine into the floor using your abdominal muscles.
4. Come back to your relaxed position.
5. Tilt your pelvis in the opposite direction lifting your lower spine off the floor.
6. Come back to your relaxed start position.
7. Your neutral spine position should be halfway between the tucked & tilted pelvis positions. Your abdominals should be flat & there should be a slight natural curve in your lower back. You should feel weight at the base of your spine & the back of your ribcage should be relaxed into the floor.
TIP: To check you are in a neutral spine position, form a diamond with your thumbs & index fingers. Place this on your abdomen with your thumbs just below your belly button & your index fingers pointing towards your pubic bone. This diamond will lie parallel to the floor if you are in neutral spine.
As well as finding your neutral spine position in lying you can practise finding it when standing with your back against a wall or sitting in a chair. Your head, mid back & pelvis should be aligned.
Maintaining a neutral spine will help to prevent any back pain caused by alignment issues & help to reduce any fatigue or tension when performing certain exercises. Within a Pilates class the neutral spine position will be used when lying on your back & front, on your hands & knees or when sitting. When lying on your back either one or both feet need to be in contact with the ground if you are in neutral spine. Once you are strong enough the neutral spine position can also be used when both feet are in the air.
If you have any questions regarding neutral spine or are interested in joining a Pilates class or booking a one-to-one session please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07787 563775.