The spine has four natural curves;
- Cervical curve
- Thoracic curve
- Lumbar curve
- Sacral curve.
These curves centre the skull over the body. The spine protects the spinal cord and allows movement in four ways;
- Lateral Flexion
- Lateral Extension
The spine has the most movement at the top and movement decreases down the spine. Due to sport and working environments our spines are put under pressure, which can cause pain and a curvature of the spine.
Scoliosis is the lateral curvature of the spine. Giving the appearance o a ‘S’ shape. This is something that people are normally born with but it can sometimes be a result of poor posture.
Kyphosis is the rounding of the thoracic vertebrae. Muscles effected by this are:
- Pectorals (Shortened)
- Trapezius-Lower/middle (Lengthened)
- Trapezius – Upper (Shortened)
- Rhomboids (Lengthened)
Lordosis is a inwards curve of the lumbar spine. Muscles which are effected by this are;
- Erector Spinae (Shortened)
- Gluteus Maximus (Lengthened)
- Hip Flexors (Shortened)
- Rectus Abdominis (Lengthened)
- Transverse abdominis (weakened)
- Hamstrings (over active)
What can be done?
To reduce the chance of a curvature of the spine occurring you can start with being aware of your posture. Then being able to correct it when working/ driving. Ensuring you are sitting correctly and resetting yourself frequently if your posture starts to slump. Another option is looking at your work environment and adjusting it to reduce the chance of poor posture. (See here for more details on posture at a desk)
From a sporting point of view, where the sporting action requires you to work in a position where the spine isn’t in neutral. You will have too work on your strength and conditioning to keep your body in balance. For example many cyclist can have a problem with kyphosis due to the extreme position they ride in for long periods of time.
If you do get back pain and are showing signs of a spine curvature there are a couple of way you can work to reduce this.
- Strengthening exercise for the muscles that are weak and lengthened eg: Rhomboids for Kyphosis
- Massage and stretching for the muscles that are over active and shorted eg: Erector spinae for Lordosis
Muscles which have become lengthened and weak are the ones which need to be strengthened, to enable you to hold yourself in the correct position. This will only work with the combined work of stretching and massaging the shortened muscles, which are pulling you into the wrong position.