The A-Z of Pilates - V for (the all important) Vertebral Column

The vertebral column, more commonly referred to as the spine, or the spinal column, is an amazing structure. It is an incredibly strong, flexible column which allows our bodies to bend and twist in various positions whilst moving our limbs in different configurations, as well as being a shock absorber and a protector of our central nervous system.  


Our spinal/vertebral column is actually composed of a series of bones - the vertebrae - which are all stacked on top of each other and is composed of 4 key sections:


  • Cervical (neck) – this has 7 vertebrae which are the smallest in size. The main function of this section of the spine is to support the weight of the head, which is approximately 10-12 pounds.
  • Thoracic (upper/mid back) – this has 12 vertebrae. Part of the function of this area of the spine is to protect the organs of the chest, especially the heart and lungs.
  • Lumbar (lower back) – this has 5 vertebrae which are the largest in size because this is actually the weight bearing area of the spinal column. 
  • Sacral (pelvic/base of spine) – combining the sacrum and coccyx which together total 9 vertebrae, From birth through childhood, these vertebrae are individual bones, but in adulthood they become fused to create one fused sacral vertebrae and one fused coccyx (tail bone). 


Spinal Column


As you can see the four curves of the vertebral column create an S shape, and it’s this shape that provides its super strong structure, but problems with the spine and the onset of associated back pain can begin as early as the late twenties. There are all sorts of daily activities that we take for granted that can cause back pain, for example; poor posture, sedentary lifestyle, sitting all day in an office chair, regular long distance driving, being overweight, general lack of exercise, or even repetitive movement patterns that are perhaps linked to sport or a particular type of job.


So, although there are many reasons for back pain, and therefore it is a complex subject, it is highly recognised that appropriate exercise can be one of the best preventative measures or treatments to help alleviate it. This is the reason why many health practitioners today recommend Pilates. As an exercise method, Pilates exercises help to mobilise the spine, increase its flexibility, maintain its strength and generally keep it healthy and functional. Most exercises in Pilates target and strengthen the muscles of the body that are key to maintaining a healthy spine, but today I have included just four which I think provide a nice all round combination. All you have to do is click on the link below for your detailed copy of the exercise instructions:


Link: Four Exercises for a Healthy Back


Please note: If you have unresolved problems with back pain and have not been recommended to practice Pilates, have recently had spinal surgery, or you have an ongoing medical condition, I strongly recommend that you consult your GP or medical practitioner regarding taking up any exercise programme, or practising these exercises at home without having taken the appropriate advice. 

This entry was posted on April 1, 2019