07 Jun Spine, understanding the basics – PART 1
The spine is an accumulation of bones, ligaments, and water + collagen in the form of intervertebral discs. The spine lays in the middle of your body AKA mid-saggital without curving or twisting laterally. This isn’t news to many of you, but when looking at the spine from the lateral view we see what looks almost like a snake as it curves in the back. But why isn’t our spine simply straight both in the frontal and sagittal plane? What could we gain from having curves in our spine?
The answer is load bearing. Gravity is a powerful force that is working 24/7. Our strategy to combat gravity:
- Add curves anterior to posterior to help distribute and offset weight
- Add in intervertebral discs between boney vertebrae to act as a “cushion”
- These discs also help create space for nerves to exit between the vertebrae
The spine is integral to overall health and function because of its’ relationship to the nervous system. How we hold our posture affects the health of our spine and nervous system. Poor posture can lead to deterioration of our vertebrae and intervertebral discs.
We break the spine down into 3 distinct sections:
- Cervical spine at the top for the first 7 vertebrae
- Thoracic spine for our middle 12 vertebrae (and 1 for each set of ribs)
- Lumbar spine for the final 5 vertebrae.
Each section’s vertebrae have different boney landmarks that allow us to tell them apart from one another. For example, the lumbar vertebrae have a much thicker vertebral body as it is towards the base of the spine and must withstand the most force while supporting the most weight. While the thoracic has lateral facing facets to articulate with the ribs.
Our spine can flex, extend and rotate as we do. The spine moves in tandem with us to bear weight with each movement while also providing a system for energy transfer within movements.
Now that we know the nuts and bolts of what our spine does and why it’s important. Let’s talk about why we start thinking about our spine in the first place. For most people it is because we begin feeling stiffness and/or pain. When this occurs we like to check one major thing: natural spinal posture. How you sit/stand and spend 80% of your day will determine the health of your spine and i.e. pain / tightness that you may feel along with that.
So what are we looking for?
Bottom line that nice S curve is what we want – but here are some major red flags that we often see. These each can cause varying degrees of pain or discomfort when occurring over extended periods of time.
- Forward head posture (“tech neck”)
Leading to neck and / or upper back pain
- Thoracic hyperkyphosis = rounded midback
Leading to midback tightness, shoulder and mid and low back pain
- Lumbar hypolordosis or extreme anterior pelvic tilt = drastic curve in low back
Leading to low back pain, hip discomfort and pain down the legs
How do we fix it?
We like to address spinal issues by taking a multifaceted approach. We want to address our proprioception, musculature that attaches onto the spine as well as the ligaments and boney structure with reinforcing proper alignment.
We can do training exercises for our spine to affect important spinal intrinsic muscles such as our erector spinae and multifidus. Exercises like low row pulls, supermans, cervical extension drills. While simultaneously stretching and opening up our anterior chest muscles with a lacrosse ball or high quality stretches. We can work on proprioception, which is our awareness of where our body is in space, by using different stimulus for the brain. I.e more repetition of proper posture. We can also then see a chiropractor for adjustments to target fixations.
At Kinetik, we like to address all of these different aspects at the same time by using a system called ELDOA. ELDOAs are an intense set of exercises that help us with spinal realignment by working all of the aspects listed above at the same time while only having to use up to 10 minutes a day as opposed to 30 min or more doing them all separately.
ELDOAs are intense isometric exercises that we do daily here at Kinetik. They are intense to really get the proprioceptive portion dialed in and to train those larger muscles that line your spine. These spinal muscles are what help hold our spine in proper alignment all day long, just like you have to train to be able to run a half marathon we also have to train our spinal muscles. ELDOAs, when done properly can also then encourage spinal decompression by properly stressing the targeted area. They are an amazing resource that can be done at home with no equipment. ELDOA is a very complex and detailed system of working the spine, with over 20 positions, and is best practiced at first with guidance from a trained professional.
If you are struggling with back or neck pain and are interested in doing an assessment or learning more call us and we will happily help!
Just want to keep learning about our spine and posture? Keep your eyes peeled for PART 2.