What is “Neutral Spine“????

Neutral spine is a phrase used to describe the ideal shape of the spine to avoid injury, allow good mobility, shock absorption and optimum efficiency for performance in day to day activity as well as sport. It describes the necessary curves required to keep all vertebra and discs articulating and bearing on each other’s flat surfaces. The main area of degeneration is mid-thoracic and lower lumbar. Both are a result of bad posture and allowing the body to slouch or slump forwards. The angle of the pelvis is pivotal as the starting point and should be such that it does not affect the lower vertebra and discs of the spine. The direction of the Spine should not alter as it comes out of the pelvis.

This is the angle that the spine comes out from pelvis, where there is no disruption to the normal natural curve of the spine

There should be no bend , there should be no gapping or angles to the bearing surfaces of the discs and vertebra. If there is then several things happen:

  • There is uneven wear on these surfaces and the cartilage rubs away causing discomfort and exposed bone
  • The disc crumbles due to too much pressure on a small area.
  • Inflammation occurs in order to create better lubrication because the cartilage is smooth and glides better than bone
  • Inflammation occurs because there is too much pressure on the surfaces that are bearing on each other because the whole flat surface is not being used
  • Inflammation pushes out which causes pain due to either strain on the ligaments or they close off the facet joint where the nerve exits and so put pressure on the exiting nerve.
  • There is discomfort from the ligaments that cross the vertebra and hold the spine in column being pulled
Diagram showing a herniated disc due to bad posture from slumping and slouching

All of the above will eventuate in causing pain.

It is all very well to make these bold statements of pelvic position but how does one know where the pelvis is angled? Best was to start to educate is in sitting. Sit in a chair or on the floor with the knees bent. And follow the following 4 guidelines:

  1. Put your hand’s palm up under the seat bones and rock backwards and forwards tilting the pelvis, ideally keep the shoulders down and back and stationary in the air. As you rock forwards and back you will feel the set bones rollover your hands. As you rock back you will feel the set bones roll forwards of your fingers and as you rock forwards you will feel them go backwards. Find the position where the seat bones are pushing the hardest downwards.
  2. The next check needs to be there are 3 exits out of your pelvis – where you wee from, poo from and have a baby (or the middle if you are a man) This middle area should be pointing straight down to the floor.
  3. The third reference is that the high point of the ridge of your iliac crest – the top ridge of your hip bone should be vertical of the middle of the pelvis (baby exit).
  4. The front nobble boney bit of your pelvis should be vertical to your pubic bone

This position should be adopted in standing. In lying the same is true except the pelvis becomes horizontal obviously. The easiest starting point is the boney bit on the front needs to be horizontal to the pubic bone.

Generally there is a need for a little more lumbar curve than one thinks.

The whole body affects the position of the pelvis, if the thoracic spine is hunched forward or not holding strong it will not allow the pelvis to sit up tall, if the hamstrings or hip flexors are tight this will affect the ability of the pelvis to hold in neutral as well. This is why it is a good idea to have an all-over body assessment to see what is going on, where the areas of tightness are and where the potential hold-ups are. Click here for more information on Biomechanics assessments.