After reading two of Dr. Stuart McGills books, Back Mechanics and Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, I came to understand that in order for my back to recover I would need to become more aware of what my neutral spine position is. I would then have to become mindful of performing everyday activities while maintaining this neutral spine position. In order to execute this well, I would need to practice utilizing my hips correctly, along with the rest of my lower and upper extremities, in relation to my neutral spine position. The idea is to develop consciousness of such posture and positioning so that eventually it becomes second nature. In truth, it is essentially the practice in which our bodies were mechanically deigned to move.
Now, That might sound like a daunting task to perform but it actually becomes easier to execute the more you practice certain exercises (and movements) that help to reinforce this. Such exercises require being in a neutral spine position in order to perform the movement correctly, and then maintaining neutral posture by developing core stabilization endurance. The way in which you would develop core stabilization endurance is through a technique called ‘bracing’.
You’re all familiar with what bracing is; It’s when you tighten your core as though you were anticipating to be punched in the stomach. The reason why this works is because the brace generates a co-contraction of every muscle and tissue of the core which (through the use of properly utilized exercises) helps to improve stabilization endurance of the spine in 360°. Think of it like what a girdle does or what a back brace is supposed to do. The brace technique is essentially your own built in back brace that is meant to ensure better support of the back and spine, and also helps to reduce the effects of sudden and accumulative traumatic stress/forces to the spine (along with other mechanical functions).
WHY BENDING THE BACK CREATES PROBLEMS
According to Stuart McGill, our spines and the discs between each vertebrate can be considered like a wire (there are other analogies but this one fits for this example). When you constantly bend a wire back and forth, its creates wear and tear. This wear and tear creates shear stress on the discs of the vertebrate but more specifically in the area where you’re most prominent to bend from. Over time this can lead to disc bulges and herniations, as well as sensitivities to various activities that can cause further stress to the spine (such as compressive forces, bending, and twisting). Activities such as walking for prolonged periods of time, running, picking things up, and even sitting can begin to cause irritation overtime.
Dr. McGill states that the cause of such irritation and sensitives stem from faulty movement mechanics, inadequate use of the hips, and insufficient support of the spine. Exercises that require maintaining a neutral spine posture while engaging the muscles of the core (with the bracing technique) assist to develop long term support for the back while allowing the spine to recover from accumulative (and traumatic) stress. This is because such exercises eliminate the movement patterns that don’t allow recovery of the spine to occur (excessive bending, twisting, and lack of support/recovery from compressive forces),
Stuart McGill argues that it’s more important to learn these movement patterns and techniques in order to properly engrain them in your overall way of moving about in everyday life. This is also so that you can develop the tools for long term support of your spine and prevent/reduce the chances of injury in the future . Dr. McGill argues that we were not designed so much to be bending at the back, but more so at the hips.