Improving non-specific back pain with Dru yoga

In the last few posts, I’ve been looking at the spine and today I want to share with you how Dru Yoga made a difference to my back problems.

My journey with back pain

I have always had issues with back pain due to a series of incidents in my younger years (accidents and self-inflicted!). When I was about 8 years old, I had a nasty fall where I bruised my back very badly. In my late teens and early 20’s, I was into heavy metal…and yes, that involved headbanging – really not great for the neck (I did warn you that some of this was self-inflicted!). A car accident when I was 19 years old gave me whiplash. In my 20’s I experienced a herniated disc in my neck after helping someone move house. Unfortunately, it was misdiagnosed as a shoulder injury and I was put in a sling for over 6 weeks. When it was finally recognised as a herniated disc, I needed a lot of physio to bring my shoulder back down and to release my neck. But it doesn’t end there. While I finished my degree I worked with children with autism and challenging behaviour, in specialist care centres, and with the elderly. I sustained numerous neck and back injuries during this time. Despite the injuries, I have never regretted working in these areas – the work was very rewarding.

Unsurprisingly after this catalogue of spinal disrespect, I ended up with a very sore back and chronic neck pain! I suffered severe headaches and had an atrocious posture (even though I had done a lot of different types of yoga since I was a teenager). I was eventually diagnosed with spondylosis in the cervical spine in my early 30’s. I thought I would always have to put up with the pain – not a pleasant prospect. I can totally emphasise with people when they tell me how miserable back and neck pain can be. So what changed for me?

Doing the Dru!

About four years or so ago, I found Dru Yoga. Not only did Dru Yoga save me from anxiety and depression but it helped alleviate my neck and back problems…in fact now, most people would not realise that I ever had a problem! So what did I do?

Every day I practised Energy Block Release One and the Dru spinal alignment sequence. I soon started to notice that my posture was improving and the creaks and clunks in my neck and shoulders were starting to become less and less. The other amazing thing was my headaches started to diminish. and eventually stopped completely! I now rarely get headaches and they usually happen when I have been doing computer work for long periods without a break – never a good plan!

As long as I do my Dru Yoga practice, I rarely get neck or back pain these days; I feel flexible and mobile…but don’t just take my word for it! Here’s why Dru Yoga is so good for easing back pain.

Why is Dru Yoga so beneficial?

In Dru yoga, movements flow with the breath and joints remain soft so that they are relaxed and flexible (1) .This type of yoga is particularly effective at alleviating lower back pain because spinal movements and core stability are important elements of a Dru Yoga class. Every posture is actually a flowing sequence. The aim with each movement is to focus on energy travelling through the spine (through the chakras) like a wave and for the limbs to move effortlessly – all movement is generated from the spine and the breath. The Spinal Wave is an important element of Dru Yoga; the movement flows from the base of the spine upwards, so that each vertebra is moving separately, expanding the spine and easing compression. The movement is then reversed so that the it  travels up and down the spine  like a wave (1). The Spinal Twist is also a key component of Dru Yoga ­– all twisting movements start from the base of the spine and move upwards so that the neck moves last and then the motion is reversed (1). Concentrating on the base of the spine helps to improve non-specific lower back pain and also ensures we are moving in balance. Furthermore, the movements increase flexibility of the facet joints and help the discs to hydrate due to the pumping motion.

Strong, yet flexible, core stability muscles (see earlier blogs) are important for supporting and stabilising the spine. Movements in Dru Yoga are practised with a contraction of the lower abdominal muscles and pelvic floor which in turn activates the transversus abdominus and lumbar multifidus. These muscles become strengthened leading to improved posture and spinal alignment (1). Ultimately, a Dru yoga class empowers a student to take control of their non-specific lower back pain and helps them to become more positive about a pain-free future – easing stress and improving well-being.

The science behind Dru Yoga

So for all you people who like things to be evidence-based – here’s the science bit! Dr Ned Hartfiel is a leading researcher into the benefits of yoga for alleviated perceived stress and back pain. Here’s a summary of some of the back-pain related evidence:

  • A 2012 study demonstrated that Dru yoga is effective at alleviating back pain in the workplace (2). Participants of the study received a 50 minute Dru yoga class each week for eight consecutive weeks and were also given a 20 minute DVD to allow them to continue practising at home. The Dru yoga group, in comparison with controls who did not perform yoga,  achieved statistically significant reductions in back pain (as measured using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire [RDQ]; p<0.01) at the end of the programme (2).
  • A recent study (2017) demonstrated that an eight week Dru Yoga programme, versus usual care (i.e. an educational programme with no yoga), was associated with reductions in physical and psychosocial components of back pain. At eight weeks statistically significant reductions in back pain-related disability were reported (as measured by RDQ [−0.84 (95% CI −1.78, −0.06); p < 0.05] and Keele STarT [−0.61 (95% CI −1.19, −0.39); p <0.001]) (3).
Dr Ned Hartfiel, leading yoga researcher

If you would like to know more:

 

Come to a Dru Yoga class and find out for yourself!

In addition to standard Dru Yoga classes, I also run specific back care classes for those people who already have problems with their backs. If you would like more information, please feel free to get in touch…I’m always happy to answer questions. Namaste

 

References

  1. Barrington C, Goswāmī A, Jones A. Dru Yoga: Stillness in Motion. Nant Ffrancon, Bethesda, North Wales, U.K.: DRU Publications; 2005.
  2. Hartfiel N, Burton C, Rycroft-Malone J, Clarke G, Havenhand J, Khalsa SB, et al. Yoga for Reducing Perceived Stress and Back Pain at Work. Occup Med 2012;62:606–12. Available from: http://occmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/62/8/606
  3. Hartfiel N, Clarke G, Havenhand J, Phillips C, and Edwards RT. Cost-effectiveness of yoga for managing
    musculoskeletal conditions in the workplace. Occup Med 2017;67:687–695. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/occmed/article/67/9/687/4676035

 

Common problems associated with the spine

Back pain is a common problem associated with the spine and surrounding muscles. In today’s blog, I’m getting my geek on and looking at specific and non-specific back pain!

Specific back pain

Specific back pain is the diagnosis when the problem with the spine or surrounding muscles can be attributed to a particular condition. Table 1 shows conditions associated with specific back pain.

Table 1: Specific back pain

 

Non-specific back pain

Non-specific back pain is the terminology used when the definite cause or condition of the pain cannot be identified (2). Non-specific back pain may be associated with the following:

  • Stress – this can increase tension in the muscles which can contribute to back pain (1).
  • Standing, sitting or bending down for long periods of time (2).
  • Muscle strain from lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling loads that are too heavy (1, 2).
  • Overuse (1).
  • Muscle disorders (1).
  • Upper-crossed and lower-crossed syndromes (muscle imbalances identified by Professor Janda caused by prolonged static postural positions) (3)
  • Poor posture (2).
  • Pressure on a nerve root.
  • Obesity (having a body mass index [BMI] > 30) (2).
  • Non-specific pain persisting after minor back injury (1,2).

Non-specific back pain is the most common cause of back pain and many of us have experienced it during our lives. Before I started Dru Yoga, I had a lot of back, neck, and shoulder problems – I was always pestering for massages and I had a lot of physio, spots therapy, and osteopathy; nothing worked for very long. Having a regular Dru Yoga practice has really helped me to overcome my back problems. These days, I’m pretty much pain free and rarely get headaches (I used to get them all the time). Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about the research behind Dru Yoga and how it has helped me! See you soon. Om Shanti!

References

  1. Sullivan K, Royal College of General Practitioners. 5-minute Back Relief. London: Collins; 2007.
  2. Canvin R. Back pain [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2015 Feb 5]; available from: http://www.bupa.co.uk/backpain
  3. Striano P, Striano P. Anatomy of a Healthy Back: a Chiropractor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back. Heatherton, Vic.: Hinkler Books; 2012.

Tips for a healthy spine

After yesterday’s interlude about reflections on the miracle of life, I’m back to looking at the spine! In previous blogs we have explored the structure of the spine and its surrounding musculature. From this we can see that the spine has many functions:

  • Movement
  • Support/posture
  • Protection of the spinal cord and associated nerves
  • Reservoir for calcium ions
  • Absorbing impact
  • Blood supply
  • Protection of major organs (ribs attach to the spine)

Movements of the spine include rotation, lateral flexion (left and right), extension (straightening/back bend), and flexion (forward bend) (Figure 10). Rotation occurs in the cervical and thoracic regions but little or no rotation occurs in the lumbar spine. Flexion occurs only in the lumbar and cervical spine – not in the thoracic region (1).

Figure 1: Types of spinal movement

Maintaining optimal spinal health

The National Health Service have reported that back pain is the leading cause of long-term sickness in the United Kingdom; in 2013 it was responsible for more than 15 million lost work days (2). Unsurprisingly, back pain represents a large societal and personal burden but in many cases it could be alleviated or prevented with adequate care.

The role of activity in good spinal health

Bed rest was once recommended for back problems, but it is now known that activity is vital to maintain spinal health. Inactivity actually exacerbates back problems (2). Activity is essential as it strengthens the back, abdominal, and leg muscles. Strong muscles assist us when lifting heavy objects, and also help with mobility and maintaining a good posture (3). During activity, movement of the spine causes the discs to be squeezed and released, keeping them hydrated and healthy (3). Plump discs cushion the vertebrae and offer more protection than thin, dehydrated discs.  Thirty minutes exercise each day helps to strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine and also maintains flexibility (3).  Low impact exercises such as walking, cycling, and swimming are good ways to improve fitness and yoga is especially beneficial  as it helps to improve flexibility, strength, and posture (3).

Good posture and spinal health

In  earlier blogs, we saw that good posture is necessary to maintain alignment and the four natural curves of the spine. Many of our daily activities can lead to poor posture if we do not take action to prevent it. For example, when carrying shopping or a shoulder bag, you should switch sides regularly to avoid strain on one side of the back (3). When walking, shoes should be comfortable and low-heeled ((3) – stilettos are not good for maintaining spinal health! Even when sleeping, there are postural considerations. It is best to sleep on your side in order to maintain spinal alignment and reduce unnatural curves (3). Mattresses and pillows need to be firm enough to keep the spine in alignment, otherwise our sleep is not restful and we might wake up with an aching neck or back. Kitchen surfaces and work benches should be at a at a comfortable height (3) – but how often do we check this? Everywhere we look there are ways in which we can protect our spinal health!

People who remain seated at a computer for most of the day are particularly prone to back problems. Workstations need to be set up appropriately and employers often undertake ergonomic assessments to make sure their staff are protected as much as possible from spinal issues. Bad posture when seated places strain on the spine. Imagine sitting all day with a bad posture ­– backache, neck pain, and headaches are likely! You can read about how to find the best way to sit correctly here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly/. Standing up and walking around, stretching, and changing sitting position regularly are all other essential things to do if you are seated for long periods of time. This helps muscles to rest and recover as well as hydrating the discs (3).

In order to sustain good spinal health, it is important to avoid injury. Warm up properly before exercise and make sure that engage your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles and bend from the hips (not just the knees) when lifting heavy objects (3).

Other things to consider to help support good spinal health include: maintaining a healthy weight, having a nutritious diet (with calcium, vitamin D, phosphorous, manganese, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B12, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, bromelain), don’t smoke (smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine), avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water, having massages, and tailor your activities to your ability (3). And of course…do some Dru Yoga!

Hope you’ve found today’s tips useful! Tomorrow, I’ll be looking at some causes of back pain and how Dru Yoga can help.

References

  1. NYU. Muscles [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2015 Jan 17]; available from: http://hjd.med.nyu.edu/spine/patient-education/spine-anatomy/muscles-and-ligaments/muscles
  2. National Health Service. Back Pain at Work [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2015 Jan 30];Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/workplacehealth/Pages/Backpainatwork.aspx
  3. Sullivan K, Royal College of General Practitioners. 5-minute Back Relief. London: Collins; 2007.

Pull up that pelvic floor

In a yoga class you will probably here expressions like “pull up your pelvic floor” and “engage your core”…but what does that mean? In today’s blog, I’m having a look at core stability muscles and hopefully making it a bit clearer on how to find them!

The core stability muscles

The core muscles are essential for spinal health and help to provide support for the whole body (1). However, sometimes the way we tell you to “engage your core” in a yoga class can be misleading. It makes it sounds like the “core” is a rigid cylinder of muscles, but this isn’t the case. Having good core stability means that the muscles are strong and flexible – capable of supporting movement – definitely not a restrictive, rigid tube!

The major core muscles are the abdominals, pelvic floor muscles, spinal extensors, and the diaphragm (1). The minor core muscles are the lattimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and trapezius (7). However, when we talk about “core stability” in yoga, we are typically referring to the transversus abdominis, lumbar multifidus, and the pelvic floor muscles.

Figure 1: The core muscles

Transversus abdominis (Figure 1): extends from the abdomen to the back, originating from the thoracolumbar fascia (as well as the iliac crest, inguinal ligament, and lower ribs), and wraps around like a corset (but a flexible one!). It supports the internal organs through compression of the abdomen.

Multifidus (Figure 1): the multifidus is a transverse muscle which originates from the sacrum, lumbar, thoracic and lower four cervical vertebrae (2). Multiple insertion points occur along the spine from the fifth lumbar vertebra upwards (2). This “multi-muscle” helps stabilise movement and extends, laterally flexes, and rotates the vertebrae (2).

Pelvic floor muscles: these muscles include the levator ani (the largest muscle of the pelvic floor), pubococcygeus, iliococcygeus, puborectalis, and coccygeus (1,3). The pelvic floor muscles support the abdominal and pelvic organs, maintain bladder control when coughing or sneezing, and fix and brace the trunk when doing forceful movements with the upper body, such as weight lifting (3). So you can see that when we activate the pelvic floor we ate focusing on a sling of muscles, not just one. It is possible to work on different areas of the pelvic floor (more on this in a different post).

Strong core stability muscles provide support and stability for the spine and are a source of strength and balance (4). They enable us to protect our spine while we lift heavy objects and perform complex movements.

Activating the pelvic floor and abdominals

Lying down

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
  • Place your hands on your pelvic crests (to find these, place your fingers at the level of your belly button and move them out to the sides towards the hip bones – the first boney bits you reach on each side are the pelvic [iliac] crests; basically the top of the hip bones).
  • Bring your fingers just inside your pelvic crests.
  • On an out-breath, pull up your pelvic floor (as if you are trying to stop yourself going to toilet mid-flow) and hollow in your lower abdomen towards your spine (bringing your lower back in connection with the floor).
  • Notice how the deep abdominal muscles contract beneath your fingers –keep breathing and hold for 10 seconds (at this point if you hum, you might feel your muscles contract a little more).

Standing up (in Mountain pose [tadasana])

  • Stand on the earth and imagine that the ball of the foot below the big toe and the little toe are two of the prongs on a three pin plug. The third pin is the heel of the foot.
  • Visualise plugging the feet into the earth, each prong entering at the same time and to the same depth. Feel the strength as you plug into the earth. Ease on the pelvic floor during an out-breath (like trying to stop going to toilet mid-flow).
  • As you gently bend into the knees, imaging the spine directly travelling down into the earth, you will probably notice that the pelvis tilts forwards (upwards).
  • If you are finding this difficult, it sometimes helps to imagine the pelvis is like a bowl holding water – you are trying to keep the bowl level to avoid spilling the water (not too far forward or back – in neutral).
  • To engage the abdominals more too, as you straighten the legs (without locking the knees), draw in the muscles as if you are trying to do up a tight pair if trousers!
  • Lift up through the spine, imagining space between each vertebra and light flowing up the spine.
  • Lift the sternum upwards as if the heart is bring drawn forward and upwards in a diagonal line.
  • Allow the chin to be parallel to the floor and lift through the crown of the head, relaxing the shoulders down. It’s as if you are being suspended from a golden thread attached at the occiput (base of the skull).
  • Enjoy standing in this active manner for as long as you feel comfortable.

I hope you enjoy exploring your strength, flexibility, and stability! Have a fabulous day. Namaste.

References

1. Striano P, Striano P. Anatomy of a Healthy Back: a Chiropractor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back. Heatherton, Vic.: Hinkler Books; 2012.

2. Jarmey C. The Concise Book of Muscles. Chichester, England; Berkeley, Calif.: Lotus Pub. ; North Atlantic Book; 2008.

3. Abrahams PH. How the Body Works. London: Amber Books; 2012.

4. Stephens M. Yoga Sequencing: Designing Transformative Yoga Classes. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books; 2012.

Musculature surrounding the spine

Dru Yoga is an excellent way to help look after your back. In today’s blog, I’m looking at some of the muscles that surround the spine.

The muscles of the back play a key role in the flexibility and mobility of the spine and can be divided into superficial and deep muscles 1. The deep muscles are associated with support and movement of the spine, whereas the superficial muscles are also responsible for the movement of the upper arms and shoulders 1.

Superficial muscles

Figure 1 shows key superficial muscles of the back 5.

Figure 1: Superficial back muscles

Trapezius: the trapezius is a tripartite muscle that originates at the base of the skull and inserts at the lateral third of the clavicle, Acromion process and the spine of the scapula 6. It helps to rotate and hold the head in an upright position and also moves the shoulder blades (scapula) up and down, and rotates the shoulders forward and back 1,6.

Latissimus dorsi : the largest muscle of the back is the latissimus dorsi 1. It originates from the lower six thoracic vertebrae and the sacral and lumbar vertebrae – extending from the trapezius to the pelvis 1,6. The insertion point of the latissimus dorsi is just below the shoulder joint (in the bicipital groove of the humerus) 6. The latissimus dorsi is used when extending the arm or pulling the arm back towards the body – even against resistance, and when forcefully breathing in 1,6.

Levator scapulae, rhomboids (major and minor): the smaller superficial muscles of the back are the levator scapulae and the rhomboids (major and minor) 1. These muscles attach to the spine and the scapula. The levator scapula originates from the first three or four cervical vertebrae, whereas the rhomboids originate from the seventh cervical and upper five thoracic vertebrae. The insertion point is at the vertebral edge of the scapula for all of these muscles 1,6. They control the movement of the arms up and inwards 1,6.

Serratus posterior inferior: this muscle originates form the thoracolumbar vertebrae and inserts at the ribs. It acts to move the ribcage down when breathing out1. The serratus posterior superior (not shown in Figure 5) is positioned in the area of the rhomboids, underneath the shoulder blade and attaches to multiple ribs. It is responsible for the upwards movement of the upper ribs when breathing in.

Erector spinae: these muscles are also known as the sacrospinalis and are comprise the iliocostalis, iliocostalis, and the spinalis) (Figure 6). They originate from the sacrum, iliac crest, the vertebrae, and the ribs. They insert at the vertebrae, ribs, and the skull 6. The erector spinae help keep the spine upright and act to move the spine backwards and sideways 1,6.

 

Deep muscles

Figure 2 shows some of the deep muscles of the back 5.

Figure 2: Deep muscles of the back

Semispinalis (capitis, thoracis, cervicis):  The semispinalis originates from cervical and thoracic vertebrae and insert at the skull, cervival and upper thoracic vertebrae 6. The semispinalis capitis helps to support and rotate the head, whereas the thoracis and cervicis extend the spine and head and assist with rotation of vertebrae 1,6.

Levatores costarum: these muscles originate from the seventh cervical and upper  thoracic vertebrae and insert into the ribs. The levatores costarum elevate the ribs during breathing 1,6.

Splenius capitas and cervicis: the splenius capitas originates from the seventh cervivcal vertebra and inserts at the temporal bone and the sternocleidomastoideus6. The splenius cervicus originates from the thoracic vertebrae and inserts at the cervical vertebrae 6. These muscle act to extend the head and neck and individually laterally flex the neck and turn the face 6.

Figure 2: Quadratus lumborum

Quadratus lumborum: the quadratus lumborum lies below the thoracolumbar fascia and originates from the iliac crest and the fifth lumbar vertebrae 6. Its insertion point is at the twelfth rib and the upper four lumbar vertebrae 6. This muscle cause lateral flexion of the spine and helps maintain an upright posture 1,6.

Obliques and rectus abdominis: the obliques and the rectus abdominus do not attach to the spine but form part of the major core muscles which are essential for maintaining a healthy spine. I’ll look at core stability another time.

Hope you’re enjoying the anatomy blogs! Namaste.

References

  1. Abrahams PH. How the Body Works. London: Amber Books; 2012.
  2. Key S. Sarah Key’s Back Sufferers’ Bible. London: Vermilion; 2007.
  3. Kaminoff L, Matthews A, Ellis S. Yoga Anatomy. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2007.
  4. Sullivan K, Royal College of General Practitioners. 5-minute Back Relief. London: Collins; 2007.
  5. Long R, Macivor C. The Key Muscles of Yoga: Your Guide to Functional Anatomy in Yoga. [S.l.]: Bandha Yoga Publications; 2006.
  6. Jarmey C. The Concise Book of Muscles. Chichester, England; Berkeley, Calif.: Lotus Pub. ; North Atlantic Book; 2008.

Introducing the vertebrae

Our spine is an amazing structure! Yesterday, I looked at the overall structure of the spine and promised I would blog about the vertebrae…so here we go!

Vertebral structures

There are 33 vertebrae in the spine, of which 24 are articulating (movable) and nine are fused (in two segments). The articulating vertebrae make up the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions of the spine and the fused segments comprise the sacrum and the coccyx. The vertebrae in each region vary in number and appearance (Figure 1); cervical (seven vertebrae, C1-C7), thoracic (12 vertebrae, T1-T12), lumbar (five vertebrae, L1-L5), sacrum (five fused vertebrae), and coccyx (four fused vertebrae) 1,2.

Figure 1: Cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae

The vertebrae are held together by ligaments and attached to the muscles by tendons 3,4. Between articulating vertebrae are gel-like intervertebral discs which act as shock absorbers in response to changes in weight load (Figure 2) 3,4. The discs are avascular (have no blood supply) and therefore need to obtain nutrients via alternative means 2. In addition to diffusion, large spinal movements help to nourish the discs. When the spine moves, compression and suction of the discs pushes fluids in and out of the capillary beds of the vertebral bodies which provide the discs with nutrients (Figure 2) 2. This highlights the importance of movement in the maintenance of disc health.

The segments of the spine are linked together by two facet joints at the back of each articulating vertebra 2. Facet joints, in combination with the discs, allow the spine to bend and twist (Figure 2) 4.

Figure 2: Vertebral structure

The space in each vertebra forms a channel down the length if the spine that protects the spinal cord 4. A total of 31 pairs of nerve roots branch from the spinal cord through the vertebral spaces and make up the peripheral nervous system (Figure 2). If good spinal health is not maintained, these nerves may not emerge from the vertebral spaces correctly and can be impinged by muscles, vertebrae or discs – potentially causing pain 4.

Now we have looked at the skeletal structure, tomorrow, I’ll start to explore the musculature of surrounding the spine.

References

  1. Abrahams PH. How the Body Works. London: Amber Books; 2012.
  2. Key S. Sarah Key’s Back Sufferers’ Bible. London: Vermilion; 2007.
  3. Kaminoff L, Matthews A, Ellis S. Yoga Anatomy. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2007.
  4. Sullivan K, Royal College of General Practitioners. 5-minute Back Relief. London: Collins; 2007.

The importance of a healthy spine

During the next few days, I’m going to be looking at the importance of a healthy spine – something that is a key element of Dru Yoga.

Over 2,400 years ago, the physician Hippocrates (460-360 BC) said “look well to the spine as the cause of all disease”.  Centuries later, the vital role of the spine in holistic health is still incontrovertible. So, how is a healthy spine achieved and why is it so important to our well-being? In order to answer these questions, we first need to explore the spine’s structure and function.

The skeletal structure of the spine

The spine (or vertebral column) is a flexible support made up of bones, known as vertebrae, and is divided into five regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum, and coccyx (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Spine

The cervical region of the spine provides support to the skull and allows the neck to move, whereas the thoracic area holds the ribs in place and strengthens the rib cage 1. Most of the body’s weight is supported by the lumbar spine 1 and this region is particularly  prone to pain 2.

The undulations of the spine are known as lordosis (inward curve) and kyphosis (outwards curve). Lordosis is observed in the cervical and lumbar regions, whereas kyphosis is thoracic and sacral (Figure 1) 2,3. These curves arch the spine backwards and forwards across the central line of gravity, allowing the weight of the head and torso to be distributed  2,3.

In perfect posture, the spine is aligned so that a straight line exists between the ear, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle (Figure 2) 2,4.

Figure 2: Perfect posture

Perfect posture is important as the four natural curves of the spine (cervical lordosis, thoracic kyphosis, lumbar lordosis, and sacral curve) help distribute weight during physical activity 4, such as walking 2. Lumbar lordosis allows humans to walk upright – without it we would be unable to walk on two legs for very long 3.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at an important part of the spine – the vertebrae!

References

  1. Abrahams PH. How the Body Works. London: Amber Books; 2012.
  2. Key S. Sarah Key’s Back Sufferers’ Bible. London: Vermilion; 2007.
  3. Kaminoff L, Matthews A, Ellis S. Yoga Anatomy. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2007.
  4. Sullivan K, Royal College of General Practitioners. 5-minute Back Relief. London: Collins; 2007.