Looking after your spine
As an osteopath, I am passionate about teaching patients and Pilates clients about the spinal
structure and how to preserve it both through posture and the correct use of muscles, and there’s a lot more to this than just the ‘core’.
Stretching is as dull as flossing, and core and Pilates are words used so much these days that they
have come to mean nothing!
I hope to give you a little more understanding about some of the structures within your body and why
they are important particularly in preventing or recovering from pain and injury.
The spine is a column of 28 interconnected bones, which provides both support and suspension to
our body. The spine comprises four functional parts (cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacrococcygeal),
each with a slight curve and each neighbouring curve countering the direction of the previous one
(lordosis, kyphosis, lordosis, kyphosis respectively).
The curves are primarily maintained by the relationship of the opposing facet joints, which buttress
one vertebra against the next, and are oriented so as to maintain the correct directional relationship of
each part of the spine.
The curves are an inherent stabilising mechanism, without which your ligaments and muscles are
under constant loading and susceptible to fatigue and strain.
In order to maintain efficient spinal and muscular posture, we should, in particular, retain both the
lumbar lordosis (nice arch above your butt) and thoracic kyphosis (a gentle curve in the upper back to
What does it look like when spinal curves are lost?
Before I get to how to maintain optimal alignment, it is important you know first what things will look
like when you are not adopting the correct spinal curves.
Even if you have a ‘nice straight back’, actually this is dysfunctional in 3 ways:
- You have a straight back (you want curves!)
- Your lower ribs probably flare up, with over-recruited internal obliques (important when wecome to core work – there is an extra note on this at the bottom of this article to add to the important information preceding it)
- Your shoulder blades are still protracted forwards, weakening arm and shoulder movements, as well as placing the shoulder, head and neck at improper angles of loading.
In order to move away from these patterns, we look to the “core”. This is an awfully big word these days, that probably doesn’t mean much to most people!
There are many ways in which you can add to the core stability challenge and I particularly like to move into
functional movements incorporating exterior muscle slings as well!
Look out for future blogs to find out more of these functional exercises.