neutral pelvis

Neutral Spine Is A Myth

Neutral-Pelvis-e1489510982202.jpg

Neutral Spine Is Not A Thing! Neutral Pelvis Is.

I am not sure when I started hearing the phrase "neutral spine" popping up from clients and other Pilates pros, but it has been quite awhile. For whatever reason, I am hearing it a lot lately.

But when I ask people to define the phrase, they cannot. I have been told that neutral spine is the spine's natural curve, but we know that looks different between individuals. My client with severe scoliosis certainly has a different neutral than I do. Her neutral is not necessarily one that works for me, and vice versa!

Most fitness and pilates professionals conflate Neutral Spine with Neutral Pelvis, much to the detriment of themselves and their clients.

Neutral Pelvis Is A Thing

I have been teaching exercise for over 27 years, and in that time the most useful concept I learned was Neutral Pelvis. Seriously!

So what is a Neutral Pelvis? Neutral Pelvis is defined as when the hip bones or ASIS (anterior superior iliac spines) are in line with the pubic bones or PS (pubis symphysis). They are in the same horizontal plane.

Pelvic Tilt

Pelvic tilt is then defined from neutral.

A Posterior Pelvic Tilt is when the hip bones are behind the pubic bones, which will flatten out the lower back and push the ribs back, make the upper back rounder. This is also known as a Tuck.

An Anterior Pelvic Tilt is when the hip bones are in front of the pubic bones, which will arch the lower back and thrust the ribs forward, making the upper back flatter. This is called an arch.

neutral spine myth
neutral spine myth

The pelvis can also rotate a bit, with one hip bone being more forward than the other, and shift laterally, with one hip bone being closer to the ribcage than the other.

Pelvic Stability = Healthier Movement

When the pelvis is stable in a neutral position, the spine will be in as close to a "Neutral" position as possible. But this will look and feel different on everybody. The hallmarks or bony landmarks, however, will stay the same. It is easiest to feel them when our lying down supine, on your back with knees bent and feet on the mat.

neutral spine neutral pelvis
neutral spine neutral pelvis

When the hip bones and pubic bones are in alignment, you will feel your sacrum and tail very heavy, with even weight on both sides of your sacrum (the large, triangular bone at the bottom of your spine). Your lower back will probably not be on the ground, and that is OK! Your ribs will be on the mat, with more connection at the upper ribs and shoulder blades. Your neck will not be down, but your skull will be.

The degree to which parts of your spine are on the mat or not depends on your structure and your muscle tension. Once my clients find neutral pelvis, I then cue them to have a long spine, with the trajectory of their spines always being "forward and up" from the sacrum to the skull, no matter what their relationship to the ground (gravity). This allows for maximum length and minimum compression, which will ultimately allow for healthier flexion, hyperextension, rotation, and side bending (yes, I am looking at you, golfers and tennis players).

And when you move your pelvis and spine, you will be able to do it with intention for a specific movement or reason, but you won't have to live there!

Plus, being able to stabilize the spine in this pelvic position and hold it allows for healthier weight training, including hip lifts, squats, planks, and most upper body exercises. Neutral pelvis and long, lifted spine leads to healthier movement, period!

How To Find Neutral Pelvis

Here is a video I did a few years ago on Neutral Pelvis - let me know if it helps you!

Pelvic Stability, Pilates, and Back Pain

Pelvic stability
Pelvic stability

I have a lot of new-to-me Pilates clients at the moment, most of whom came to me because they were doing Pilates and loving it, but still had bad lower back pain.

Since most folks come to Pilates to try to get rid of lower back pain, this is a big problem.

Pelvic Stability and Back Pain

The biggest issue I have seen in these new clients, as well as most of my clients over the past few decades, is lack of pelvic stability.

Basically, you can exercise all you want, but if your pelvis isn't stable, there is a good chance you will hurt your back.

Why?

The pelvis is literally the kingpin of the body. If the pelvis is stable when it needs to be, moving only when it needs to move, everything else works better.

What Is Pelvic Stability?

A neutral pelvis is a defined thing.

Your pelvis is neutral when the hip bones and pubic bones are all in the same horizontal plane.

If the hip bones are behind, or lower than, the pubic bones, you are in a pelvic tuck or posterior tilt. Your pelvis is tilted backwards, causing your lower back to flatten and your upper back to round more. This is useful for some exercises, but not as a place to live.

If the hip bones are in front of, or higher than, the pubic bones, you are in an anterior pelvic tilt. Your pelvis is tilted forward, causing your lower back to arch forward and your upper back to flatten. Again, this is useful for some exercises, but not as a place to live.

Once you find neutral, it is easier to know when you are moving out of it.

Why Does Your Back Hurt?

Since moving your pelvis moves your entire spine, lack of stability leads to a lot of unnecessary and unsupported spine movement. Unsupported spine movement leads to back pain.

Unsupported spine movement with added resistance or weight leads not only to back pain, but the possibility of true injury, like a herniated disc.

Unsupported spine movement with added resistance also leads to spinal and joint compression, where the space between the bones is lessened and things are pushed together. Again, this will lead to injury, like a "pinched nerve" or "pinched disc," causing more back pain.

Resources for Back Pain

1. Free Pilates Videos

2. Pilates for Lower Back Pain Audio

3. Pilates for Back Pain eCourse

4. Online Pilates Sessions

5. Mastering the Mat mentorship for Pilates teachers

Pilates Fundamentals for Back Pain

Here are a few tried and true Pilates fundamentals to help with back pain.