BACK TO BASICS: Part 2

GETTING IN NEUTRAL

WELCOME BACK!
In Part 1 we discussed how important it is for EVERYONE to look after their lower back, and introduced the 3 fundamental principals of spinal hygiene:
        1. Get in Neutral
        1. Stabilise in Neutral
        1. Mobilise the Right Places
For the rest of this series we will be looking at each of these strategies in turn, and discussing what you can do to make them part of your daily routine. 
So, let’s kick off today with… Getting in Neutral

 

FIRSTLY, WHAT IS NEUTRAL?
The term ‘Neutral’ is itself ambiguous, controversial, and difficult to define. Since everyone is built differently, what looks like neutral for one person may be towards end range of motion for someone else. There is, therefore, no universal definition of what ‘neutral’ should look like. 
That said, it doesn’t help to be ideologue about this. What we need is a practical solution that helps YOU to find YOUR neutral as quickly and easily as possible, and what I have found is that for most people the best place to start is with the pelvis. 

 

WHY THE PELVIS?
Slap bang in the middle of your body, the pelvis forms the base of your core, and it has an important influence on posture and movement in both the lower body and upper body. Moreover, being connected to the lumbar spine via the sacrum, the pelvis has a direct effect on the position of lower back. In fact the relationship between pelvic position and lumbar position is so close that it is often referred to as Lumbo-Pelvic Position
Because of this relationship, for many people with lower back pain (and other problems), just learning how to get the pelvis into neutral can have huge benefits. 

 

SO, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Whilst it may seem simple, just establishing a neutral lumbo-pelvic position can be extremely powerful for people with low back pain. The problem is that many people simply don’t know what it feels like to have a neutral pelvis or how to get there in the first place.
So, for anyone that isn’t 100% sure how to establish a neutral pelvis, here’s a simple way to do it:
  • Firstly, stand up and imagine that your pelvis is a bucket full of water.
  • Then, tip your pelvis forwards so the imaginary water pours out of the front. This is known as anterior pelvic tilt, and tends to increase Lumbar EXTENSION.
  • Next, tip your pelvis backwards so the imaginary water pours out of the back – This is known as POSTERIOR pelvic tilt, and tends to increase Lumbar FLEXION.
  • Now put the pelvis right the middle of these two extremes (roughly where no imaginary water is spilled) and congratulations, you have just found NEUTRAL.

 

OWN THE MOVEMENT!
Depending on both your natural build and your lifestyle, you might find that you tend to exist more in lumbar extension (anterior pelvic tilt) or lumbar flexion (posterior pelvic tilt). Whatever your tendencies, however, you can use the above manoeuvre to find YOUR neutral. 
It may feel strange to start with, and you may find it difficult to control the pelvis at first, but the more often you do it the easier and quicker it will become. Eventually, you will not need to perform the whole manoeuvre, but you will be able to go straight to neutral. 

 

WHEN SHOULD YOU DO IT?
Like we said in Part 1, establishing a neutral posture is something that should become habitual, and not just something you focus on when you’re training. Try to be aware of your lumbo-pelvic position throughout the day, and the effect that different activities have on it.  
The more you perform activities that take you away from neutral and into either a flexed position (e.g. sitting, bending etc.) or an extended position (e.g. standing, running etc.) for long periods, the more often you will need to focus on re-establishing neutral. 
Try to keep reminding yourself, and keep practising it and eventually, neutral will become natural!
 
WHAT’S NEXT?
Now that you are aware of Lumbo-Pelvic positioning, and you know how to find neutral, you’ve conquered the first step in Spinal Hygiene. 
Next, you must learn how to stay there. So, join me in Part 3 when we look at the next step.. how to Stabilise in Neutral.
In the meantime, if you want to learn how to move better, feel better and perform better…  just get in touch, or register for one of my Smart Training Classes in Südtirol.