Neutral Spine or Not?
A small inward curve belongs in your lower back (left-hand figure of the three in the drawing). You can slouch your spine in a few ways to increase the small inward curve resulting in over-arching, also called hyper-lordosis (two ways shown in the middle and right figures). Hyperlordosis can pinch and compress the lower spine joints called facet joints, and surrounding soft tissue.
I have done several studies trying to see why hyperlordosis hurts. One study that I will present at the American College of Sports Medicine meeting this May, identified and measured three kinds of hyperlordosis and their relation to lower back injury. It turns out that, historically, it has been tricky to measure overly-arched spinal angles in relation to the hip (middle drawing). It is even more demanding to figure how the lower spine angle relates to the upper body in hyperlordosis (right drawing).
The middle drawing above, and left figure in the photo at right, show one kind of lordosis from tilting the hip downward in front so that the backside sticks out in back, explained in the previous post What is Neutral Spine and Why Does Sticking Out In Back Harm? An earlier post introduced how this kind of overarching can injure - Aren't You Supposed To Stick Your Behind Out to Sit Down or Do Squats?
The right-hand figure in both the drawing and photo show a second kind of hyperlordosis. The hip may be fine and level, but if you slouch and lean your upper body backward, you overarch the lower spine and pinch it under your upper body weight. Watch for this kind of overarching when standing, lifting arms overhead, and carrying loads in front.
The muscles that hold your torso and hip straight are your abdominal muscles. But abs do not do this automatically - you have to voluntarily, consciously use them, the same as moving your arm or leg. If you don't deliberately use abs to position your spine, you may fall into whatever bad positioning habit you are used to - sticking out in back, or leaning upper body back, or both at once.
Strengthening abs and tightening them through conventional exercises also does not automatically make your abs do anything to position your spine - Using Abdominal Muscles is Not Tightening or Pressing Navel to Spine. That is why I spent more years in the lab to develop exercises that do train your abs to hold your spine right while you go about your daily life and while you exercise. We named the new system The Ab Revolution because it is a different way of understanding and using abs, and because we couldn't think of a better name. Ideas welcome.
I will be giving a fast, fun, workshop on The Ab Revolution™ in downtown Philadelphia in May. If you can't make it, follow this blog or try the book The Ab Revolution™. It tells all about fixing the pain of hyperlordosis and how to get effective abdominal exercise.
Read success stories of these methods and send your own.
Subscribe to The Fitness Fixer, free. Click "updates via e-mail" (under trumpet) upper right.
See Dr. Bookspan's Books, take a Class, get certified - DrBookspan.com/Academy.
Recent Blog Posts
Mar 09, 2010
New Healthy Employment Programs for Developmentally Disabled
Mar 04, 2010
Reader Uses Fitness Fixer Advice to Shovel Snow Painlessly and Beat Mother Nature
Mar 01, 2010
Lactic Acid Myths