What Is Neutral Spine? What Does My Ribs Have To Do With Neutral Spine?

All right, hey guys, what’s up? It’s Stephen Dunn with CORE Therapy and Pilates. Today, I have Liz, our Pilates apprentices in the house, and she’s going to be helping us out with a little demonstration.

Last time she joined me with this, we were talking about the diaphragm, diaphragmatic breathing, with the sandbag on her ribs, and today we’re going to build on that a little bit. We’re going to talk about a couple things.

First thing is, what is neutral spine? Many people ask me that. What is neutral spine, and what does that mean? So, I’m going to talk about that for a moment. And then, the second question is, what do my ribs have to do with neutral spine? Okay, and I want to talk a little bit about that.

So, first of all, I want to have Liz stand up, and we’re going to use her ribs as a little model. So, there we go. Now, in that position, here are her lower ribs. And what I want you to do is flare those ribs out for me. So, there, her ribs are popping this way, and, go ahead and turn and face this way, and it’s creating her back to sway, or create a bigger arch.

Now, go ahead and connect your ribs. Yeah, now she connected her ribs, her low back got into a better position, into, again, a better neutral spine.

Now, what I want to say is, most people, when they reference neutral spine, they talk about pelvis, and a twisting here, and a twisting here, or a tilt here, I should say, and a tilt there. And that’s what’s really emphasized when it comes to neutral spine. I’m more interested, for today’s discussion, to talk about the ribs.

All right, go ahead and let’s have you laying on the table for a second. And to look at the skeleton man, looking at the side, this is a not a great image of the neutral spine, but from the side, we have a slight curve through here. Okay? If someone’s ribs are popping, they end up in a bigger what we call lordosis or a swayback. And that’s where this is excessive, and the ribs are popping out.

So, we’re going to talk about getting the ribs to come down, and by getting the ribs to come down, it’s actually creating the spine to be in a better position, or a better neutral position.

All right. So, with that said, yeah, we’ve got a good shot of your ribs, which is good. No, keep your knees bent, I just think that would be a little bit easier for this demonstration.

Now, what I want you to do is go ahead and tilt your pelvis backwards to flatten your lower back. So, that’s a tilt of the pelvis or a posterior pelvic tilt or a 12 o’clock tilt. Go ahead and relax out of that. Now, this time, bring your ribs down, then try to create that neutral spine. Yeah. So, it’s a different scenario. What happened is, she didn’t tilt as much, but her back is in a very good position.

And what I like to describe … go ahead and go into an inhale and an exhale. Now, inhale, push my hand up, and then as you exhale, pull my hand down, and think of the ribs connecting towards the pubic bone. Good. Inhale up. And exhale.

So, we’re focusing on her rib connection to bring the ribs down to get into a better spinal position. And again, this is something that’s very commonly mistaken or lost in this transition, because everyone is focusing on this tuck of the pelvis, and where the pelvic position is.

So, I just wanted to go over that real briefly. And with that rib connection, we are flattening the lower back from above. When we tilt the pelvis back, we are flattening the lower back from below. The reality is, I want the little bit of flattening from below, and a little bit of flattening from above.

And, again, this is for my folks who are in a big swayback, or a big increased curve, which is pretty common in my practice. So, these are the things that we talk about of getting the accordion effect. I like to use the image of an accordion. As she inhales, everything opens up a little bit. And as she exhales, everything closes down a little bit. And with that, again, creating a better neutral spine.

So, that’s our message for today. If you’ve got any questions, put them below. Anything to say on that, Liz?

Feels good.

Feels good? All right. Connect those ribs, baby.

All right, we’ll see y’all soon.

Call 512.215.4227 to tell us your story and your goals… Are you ready to improve your swayback that you were told to just deal with? We can help!

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Stephen Dunn

Co-Owner / Physical Therapist at CORE Therapy and Pilates
Stephen graduated with a Masters in Physical Therapy in 1998 from LSUMC in New Orleans. Immediately interested in hands on therapy, he began to study with known manual therapist Brian Mulligan and became certified in the Maitland Australian Approach in 2003. Stephen completed a comprehensive Pilates training in Santa Monica at retroFit Pilates in 2002 and is Certified through The Pilates Method Alliance. The combined treatment of manual therapy with mind body awareness exercises using Pilates concepts was the start of his whole body treatment approach.
Stephen Dunn

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