Many of us have been told at some point in our lives to “find your neutral spine”, or “find your centre”, but what does this actually mean?
Neutral spine is the natural position of all three curves – cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) – are present and in good alignment. This is the optimum posture, and the strongest position for the spine when we are standing or sitting.
Unfortunately, due to daily habits and different prolonged stresses on the body, we can often end up standing in “poor posture”. The above picture gives you an idea of different postures that can develop. These postures can overload different soft tissues of the spine, which can lead to pain and injury.
How do you stand?
But how do you make sure you have found your “neutral”?
Let’s start lying down, in the position this picture shows.
Tilt your pelvis back towards you as much as you can, trying to flatten your whole back into the floor. This is your Posterior Tilt.
Then, tilt your pelvis the other way, trying to lift your lower back off of the floor as much as you can. This is your Anterior Tilt.
Repeat the anterior and posterior tilt a few times.
Then, stop your pelvis in the mid-point of these two ranges. This is your Neutral Spine / Centre.
You can repeat this sitting or standing; remember you’re trying to find the half way point between the anterior and posterior tilt. It’s important to find your individual centred position, everyone will be slightly different!
Maintaining the ability to keep a neutral spine without having to consciously think about it, is to have the right support from your core muscles. Your deep layers of core muscles are designed purely to support your spine and hold it in the right place! If you are looking to strengthen these muscles, Pilates is a really great place to start.
Now please do not read this and think you HAVE to keep a neutral spine 24 hours a day. Backs are made to move! However do try to think about keeping a neutral spine when doing things such as sitting at your desk, lifting objects, or standing. Have a look at the picture below and try to think about this when you sit at your desk. This is a very simple version however it is suppose to get you thinking about your desk set up and how you use your desk if you are set up correctly. It is one thing to have the correct set up quite another to use it correctly.
Correct sitting posture for your desk at work