Many spine problems result from poor posture that subjects the spine to abnormal stresses. Learning how to place the pelvis in a neutral alignment will help to balance the spine and prevent back pain.
Why Neutral Spine
Many spine problems result from poor posture that subjects the spine to abnormal stresses. Many people spend long hours sitting or performing tasks that require bending forward or lifting. To maintain good posture, you need to maintain a “neutral spine.” A neutral spine retains three natural curves: a small hollow at the base of the neck (called lordosis), a small outward roundness at the middle back (called kyphosis), and a small inward curve (lordosis) in the low back. A neutral spine is neither rounded forward nor arched back too much.
Various abdominal muscles attached to the ribs and muscle groups attached to pelvis and the lumbar spine form these natural curves and cushion the spine from excessive stress or strain.
Poor posture causes abnormal stress over time and leads to structural changes in the spine, including degeneration of disks and joints, lengthening or shortening of the supportive ligaments and muscles, and wear and tear of cartilage. All of these structural changes can lead to pain.
Importance of Correct Breathing
Full, uninhibited breathing can ensure good posture.
The muscles and structures of the respiratory system and abdomen control abdominal pressure. As we breathe in deeply, our belly swells to accommodate the filling of the lungs and as we breathe out the belly draws in, and this assists in stabilising the core area.
Adopting Correct Standing Posture
Stand erect and tall with feet shoulder width apart, thigh muscles elongated without locking the knees back. Maintain a small hollow in your low back, without arching/leaning back. The “tail” of the spine should remain slightly tucked down.
Lift the breastbone. As you do this, the shoulder blade move down in the back and creates a good distance from your hipbone to your rib cage.
Make your chin level. The highest point of your body should be the top back region of your head. Relax your jaw and neck muscles. With the mouth closed, rest your tongue on the roof or your mouth. Hold this position and breathe in and out 10 times.
A “wall test” can be performed to help practice good standing posture. Stand with head, shoulders, and back against wall and heels about 5-6 inches forward. Draw in the lower abdominals, decreasing the arch in your low back. Push away from the wall and try to maintain this upright, vertical alignment.
Adopting Correct Sitting Posture
Sit in a sturdy chair with your back straight and your abdominal muscles pulled in. Feet should be resting on the floor with knees and hips bent 90 degrees. Maintain an arch in the low back. Go from a slouched position up to the extreme end range of erect posture, and then back off 10-15%. This is the neutral position for your low back. A “lumbar roll” placed in the natural arch of your low back can support the low back when you sit for long hours.
Lift your breastbone. This creates a good distance from your ribcage to your hipbones. Your shoulder blades should be down in back. Make your chin level. The highest point of your body should be the top back region of your head.
Extend the arms straight forward at shoulder-level. Exhale and round the shoulders and back. Pull the chin in towards the chest, contract the abdominal muscles and hold until all the air is blown out. Inhale as you return to the upright position. Repeat 10 times.
Take frequent breaks from sitting and change your position, at least hourly, if you have spine problems.
Postural tips for sleeping
The best sleeping positions for someone with neck or back pain is either lying on the side or on the back. When lying on the side, a pillow between the knees helps keep the spine neutral.
A “cervical roll” can be placed between the base of the head and the shoulders, supporting the curve of the neck and helping to maintain neutral alignment in either positions.
The following video explains how to find neutral spine in various postures:
Here’s how to get best sleeping position for a restful sleep.