If you’ve ever attended a Pilates, strength, or yoga class, your instructor may have begun by asking you to find your neutral spine. However, what is neutral spine alignment, and how do you achieve it? To obtain a neutral spine position, it’s important to focus not only on engaging specific muscles but also on breathing and tucking, pressing, and pulling specific body parts.
Below, we examine neutral spine alignment more in-depth and provide some helpful tips to utilize to help maintain it.
What Is Neutral Spine Alignment?
A neutral spine alignment is the natural way our spine curves to maintain balance with the least musculoskeletal stress. The cervical spine has a lordotic (inward) curve, the thoracic has a kyphotic (outward) curve, and the lumbar has another lordotic (inward) curve—when each of these curves is present and aligned well, it allows us to move naturally with less demand on the spine.
A neutral spine helps keep the muscles and soft tissues of the spine in the proper position so that they are less prone to fatigue and spasm, helping minimize the presence of back and neck pain. When the spine is well-balanced, the body is also able to more efficiently dissipate the forces the spine is subjected to with normal physical activities as well as from traumatic injuries, which can help reduce the risk of severe arthritic changes over time.
How to Achieve a Neutral Spine
The spine typically exhibits a wide range of motion during various activities. However, it is always important to focus on keeping a neutral spine alignment during specific exercises, including running, biking, lifting weights, Pilates, yoga, swimming, and other acrobatics, to decrease injury risk. Essentially, the neutral position is important whenever an activity requires good posture and balance to be completed correctly.
The most basic method for locating your neutral spine is to lie flat on your back and slowly exhale, then relax the muscles in your shoulders, spine, pelvis, and lower body. As a result, you should have a slight space between your lower back and the floor. This should be your neutral spine position.
The following steps go into greater detail to help you achieve this:
- Lie down on the ground with your knees bent upwards and your arms pressed to the side of your body.
- Relax your body and take a deep breath, filling your lungs with air.
- Slowly release the air through your mouth while also tucking in your pelvis (the area below the abdomen that is located between the hip bones) and pressing your lower back to the floor.
- Breathe in and pull your lower back upwards. The gap between your lower spine and floor should appear again. You should also feel solid contact in your mid-back and a gap between your upper back and the back of your skull.
Tips for Maintaining a Neutral Spine
Once you have achieved a neutral spine, it’s important to be able to maintain this spinal position during movement. The following are three tips that can help you be more aware of your neutral spine:
Practice Neutral Floor Exercises
You can begin by bringing your right leg up and placing it back down without allowing your hips to move after you’re in your neutral spine on the floor, as discussed earlier. Then do the same with your left leg. Engage the abdominal muscles to assist in stabilizing the pelvis, keeping it in a neutral position and preventing it from moving. Repeat this process with each leg.
Try it with both legs once you’ve mastered lifting each leg with ease. Lift your legs while exhaling deeply and keeping your core and pelvis stable. After that, lower them again. As you go through the motions, try to avoid relaxing your abs and letting your back arch too far off the floor. Conversely, don’t go too far the other way by tucking your pelvis and flattening your spine into the floor and away from its neutral position.
Give Pilates a Try
Pilates is a set of exercises that focus on strength building from the core. It places importance on neutral spinal alignment. While focusing on keeping your spine in correct alignment, Pilates exercises also work on strengthening your muscles to help support that alignment. With Pilates, the hope is that when the core is strong and the body is aligned properly, the body will be less prone to injury from joint dysfunction or restriction. If you have tried Pilates and experienced limitations like painful flare-ups, then your spinal alignment should be evaluated.
Visit a Chiropractor
Having a chiropractic consultation can give you more insight into your current spinal health and what can be done to restore your spine to its optimal position if it has become misaligned. At PostureWorks, we co-manage with exercise professionals and will provide you with a thorough examination and spinal analysis, but we’ll also create a customized routine of postural exercises aimed at strengthening your muscles so that your body can hold a neutral spine alignment. This will allow you to handle your daily activities or workouts. We’ll also help retrain your mind and body so that you can hold the proper spinal alignment unconsciously, making it your body’s default setting once more.
Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health and optimal function while eliminating the source of pain and circulatory and nervous dysfunction. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive. Contact us today to schedule your appointment or learn more about finding your neutral spine alignment.