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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kristen K. Schulte,PT

The Spine Should Move in All Directions

The spine should move in all directions.* What are those directions? Though the spine is complex, to simplify it: forward bending, backward bending, rotation, and side bending. Too often, people with some sort of back pain or condition find themselves in a dark hole of fear avoidance, which means that they know that movement has caused them pain in the past and therefore avoid that movement indefinitely so that it does not cause them pain. As you can imagine, this becomes a cycle where even if there is no longer pain associated with that movement, the person believes there is pain, and therefore there is pain. Does anyone else hear the ancient philosopher Descartes echo, I think therefore I am?** Whoa. The brain is powerful. This does not mean that these people are “making up” their pain; it just means that the brain has the ability to create pain where there is no longer pathology.

While Classical Pilates focuses on the balance of strength and stretch of the entire body, I have personally noticed its greatest impact on my body for my spine. Using the system originally created by Joseph Pilates, Jenny taught me how to safely move my spine in all directions (including, and maybe most importantly, backward bending). The idea is that it is perfectly safe to move the spine in all directions as long as you do so with the support and the control of all of the muscles surrounding the spine.

I had avoided backward bending for years even though I knew that my fractures had long healed and that everything mechanically-speaking was very normal in my back. I had tried from time to time to backward bend, but it never felt quite right. That feeling was likely my fear-avoidance kicking in. When Jenny used the decades-old principle of Classical Pilates to help me extend my spine safely, I realized that it not only was not painful, it felt really, really good almost as though my spine had been craving that movement for years. After practicing Classical Pilates now for multiple years, I have a tough time believing I had ever had back pain. I have a tougher time believe there was ever a spinal motion that I could not/would not do.

Joseph Pilates is famously quoted with saying, “You are only as young as your spine is flexible.” The spine is complex and filled with movement, and when we cut out a movement, there is always the risk that our brain plays tricks on us and does not allow us to get that movement back. There may be a time in your life where the acuteness of an injury anywhere in the body suggests that you limit a movement for healing (think of putting a broken arm in a cast), but once your body does what it amazingly does and heals itself, it is time to get moving. And if you, like me, feel like it is time you start moving your spine safely, come in and meet Jenny.

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*When using the term “the spine”, we mean a typical spine that is mechanically healthy and has not received surgical intervention. This is general information not meant to diagnose or treat. Please seek individual care for your individual needs.

**The OG was indeed Descartes Discourse on Method, which I have actually read (Thank you, Xavier University), not Billie Eilish.

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