A vital and pivotal structure in every sense the spine allows for protection of the spinal cord, movement, muscular attachment and stability. As a fitness professional its important that we understand the functionality of the spine and the importance of correct movement patterns.
The Structure of our Spine
A complex structure that supports use during movement and can withstand huge amounts of pressure.
With four natural curves: In the foetus the spine is shaped in a single curve. As the spine matures it develops into four natural curves; two convex (thoracic and sacral) and two concave (lumbar and cervical).
The make-up of the spine
Our spines are built from 33 irregular bones (Vertebrae). Each different region of the spine has a different number of bones and the bones are shaped differently, which you’d expect as they are irregular. With a number fused within the sacral and Coccygeal regions.
The movement of the spine
Due to the structure and the number of bones within each area of our spine’s there is potential for differing types of movement within it. The cervical and lumbar regions with concave curves give the greatest range of movement to the body.
The cervical region of our spine is capable of flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation. It has the greatest amount of lateral flexion and rotation of any region of the spine.
The skull sits on top of the atlas bone enabling flexion, extension and lateral flexion. The atlas and the axis bones of the cervical vertebrae form a pivot joint, allowing rotation.
Our thoracic spine is a lot less mobile and thus more stable than the cervical. It also allows flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation.
The upper thoracic vertebrae are limited in their flexion and extension. The lower thoracic vertebrae allow a much greater range. The combined thoracic vertebrae are capable of significant amounts of rotation.
Our lumbar spine region allows some flexion with a greater capacity for extension. Rotation and lateral flexion are more limited than the other regions of the spine such as the cervical and thoracic.
The region of the sacral spine simply does not move. The vertebrae (bones) of the sacrum and coccyx are fused together.
Posture can be deﬁned as the attitude or position of the body (Thomas, 1997) and according to Martin (2002), should fulﬁl three functions:
- It must maintain the alignment of the body’s segments in any position: supine, prone, sitting, quadruped, and standing
- It must anticipate change to allow engagement in voluntary, goal-directed movements such as reaching and stepping
- It must react to unexpected perturbations or disturbances in balance
The neutral spine position often referred to describes the ideal position to minimise stress on the vertebrae and the associated ligaments. In turn, achieving this posture during physical activity will help to reduce the risks of back pain and optimum performance can be maintained. It will also allow musculature to perform in a balanced way and maintain this optimal spinal curvature.
“Good posture is the state of muscular and skeletal balance that protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity irrespective of the attitude (e.g. erect, lying, squatting, stooping) in which these structures are working or resting” (Posture Committee of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons,1947).