Neutral spine is a healthy back posture in which the three main curves of the back are all properly aligned. Maintaining a neutral spine posture can greatly reduce the risk of some spinal issues such as curvature or damage that may result from bad posture. While many proponents of good posture insist that one must keep one's back straight, it is important to remember that the spine itself is not straight. There are several curves in the spine that should be maintained and properly aligned in order to ensure back health. These curves, when properly aligned, allow for the best distribution of weight and force across the spine and other connected bone structures.
The spine's three primary curves are referred to as the cervical curve, the thoracic curve, and the lumbar curve. The cervical curve is located near the top of the spine near the neck; it holds the head up and prevents it from falling too far forward. When the neck is bent forward too far, the movement of the head is limited, and neck pain may occur. The condition in which the curve in the neck is reduced and the spine is straightened is referred to as cervical kyphosis. Maintaining neutral spine posture can greatly reduce the risk of cervical kyphosis which can, in severe cases, be quite painful and damaging to the spine.
The thoracic curve is located in the middle of the back; it is a much larger than the cervical curve and it curves in the opposite direction. The lumbar curve is near the bottom of the spine. It curves back in a manner similar to the cervical curve. The cervical, thoracic, and lumbar curves are all important for proper weight and force distribution, and neutral spine helps ensure they all remain in healthy positions.
Many different problems can arise when neutral spine is not maintained, the important spinal curves are not in their proper places, and weight and force distribution across the spine are not as they should be. Poor posture can lead to discomfort or spinal damage, particularly when walking, as the shock that occurs with each step is unevenly distributed throughout the back and body. Sitting for many hours at a time may also result in back problems as people tend to slouch or otherwise compromise their posture after long periods of time.
It is not necessarily possible to maintain neutral spine at all times. This is particularly true when one engages in various athletic activities such as biking or wrestling. When standing, sitting, or lying down, however, it is important to maintain neutral spine in order to ensure spinal health.