Why Neutral Spine is the Safest Position

Over the past month, I had the pleasure of listening to a medical professional describe the ramification of the practice of the hip position “tucked/tilted/clenched” while standing. He confirmed that neutral is the most structurally safe place that your cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine are in alignment. As you know from my previous blog posts, I am a huge advocate of using neutral spine while teaching fitness. Neutral spine is where each and every joint is held in optimum position by connective tissue with symmetrical tension to allow equal distribution of force through the entire structure.

I have heard instructors ask their students to tilt, tuck, and squeeze the glutes in order to flatten the back vertically! Not only will this create back pain for the students, but this unnatural position can potentially cause injuries. By putting the pelvis in a posterior position, the skeleton puts the femur head in the acetabulum (the hip joint) incorrectly, thus taking away neutral spine completely.

Let’s not only think about this but experience it!

  1. Stand up
  2. Find your neutral stance (think of standing normally)
  3. Take some deep breaths
  4. Reach your arms overhead
  5. Bend forward and touch your shins

How did you feel? Did you have a large range of motion when reaching towards the floor? Now, try this

  1. Stand up
  2. Tuck/tilt your pelvis forward and clench your glutes
  3. Take some deep breaths
  4. Reach your arms overhead
  5. Bend forward – without moving your pelvic bones – and touch your shins

Now, how did that feel? Were you able to reach as far forward? As I have done this exercise with hundreds (if not thousands) of people, I am sure you are saying “I had no range of motion!” And that is exactly, the point. The tuck position limits your ability to breathe deeply and move with a large range of motion, which is necessary for life.

How many of your clients (or yourself) have back pain? The majority of Americans sit in a forward curved flexion most of the day, causing back pain. Did you know that tilting the pelvis causes the lumbar spine to lose its natural curvature? This places unnecessary stress on the lumbar spine and in worst cases, can also create disc herniation or bulging. This doesn’t sound like a way to minimize their pain, does it? This position only exacerbates the issues.

Quickly let’s take 2 minutes for an anatomy review: The hip joint, or acetabulum, is responsible for many movements including walking, bending, squatting, lifting, and well…life! It is a is a ball and socket joint, with the femur (ball) inside the acetabulum (socket). The head of the femur is a ball like bone structure that attaches to the rest of the femur by a section of bone called the femoral neck, which sits inside the acetabular fossa. The hip socket and femoral head are both lined with articular cartilage that allows the bones to glide together easily with little friction. By placing the femur incorrectly into the joint, the wear and tear on this cartilage becomes greater than necessary or expected; This causes pain and arthritis and potentially, eventually hip replacements.

So what can we do? Try to avoid the pelvic tucked position and teach your students how to stand in neutral spine so that the lumbar spine is structurally functional and the femur and hip joint are aligned. Keep in mind as you teach that vertical neutral is different for everyone! Therefore, simply ask your students to stand or sit tall with strong abdominals. While here, try taking deep breaths and see what is felt.

Posted in Barre, Education, Fitness, Fitness Professionals.