You may have heard the term ‘neutral spine’ in pilates or yoga lessons. Have you ever wondered, “What exactly is this neutral spine? How can I find the neutral spine position? Are there any neutral spine exercises?” Let’s find out together.
What does the neutral position of the spine mean?
Neutral spine is the position when all three curves of the spine [cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) curve] are present and in proper alignment. When the curves are aligned properly, there will be less amount of stress placed upon your spinal structure and joints.
These curves of the spine often get misaligned due to lifestyle habits or through hereditary factors such as muscular imbalances, injuries, and repetitive motions. Over time, these factors lead to postural problems.
Many people habitually have their spine either tucked or tilted, instead of in a neutral spine position. When the spine is in its neutral position, it should be between these tucked and tilted positions.
This means that the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) spine should curve gently inward whereas the thoracic (middle back) spine should curve slightly outward.
How does the neutral spine position serve the body?
This is the strongest position for the spine when standing or seated, as it allows the body to move in the most natural way. Core muscles (lower back, hips, abdominals) work best when the joints are aligned in a neutral position, too.
Finding your optimal posture with a neutral spine is vital. The natural curves protect the spine, allow for optimum breathing, and support proper muscle activation, and also help prevent knee pain and other joint-related problems.
However, you should bear in mind that there is not one single ideal posture. These spinal curves and alignment are unique, based on every individual’s body shape and hereditary characteristics.
How can you find your neutral spine? – Neutral spine exercises
Everyone who does regular workouts should learn how to find their neutral spine position. Here’s an exercise to help you find your neutral spine position:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your feet should be parallel.
- Let your arms rest at your sides and relax your whole body.
- Start tilting your pelvis: flatten your lower back to the floor, and curl your tailbone upward. Then, move it in the opposite direction by creating an arch in the lower back so your tailbone points to the ground. Slowly go back and forth between those two motions a few times.
- Find the position that feels the most comfortable in your lower back, somewhere between the two extremes of flattening and arching. Remain in that position. The position where you feel no pain, or least pain, is your neutral spine position.
- Remember this spinal position and try to maintain it while exercising.
If you have difficulty in finding your neutral spine position or if you feel an ache or a stinging sensation in your lower back, consult your doctor.