An aligned spine honors all four natural curves without any one being overly exaggerated. Lifestyle habits and repetitive activity cause hunching, slouching, sway backs and compression -- misalignments that cause pain, hampered function and poor posture.
Exercise can go a long way in restoring better posture and spinal alignment. While it can't work miracles and cure a crooked spine caused by a genetic defect or scoliosis, it can keep the muscles around the spine as healthy as possible to prevent further degeneration.
Any exercise won't do, however. You must seek out the right exercises for your specific misalignments. Always check with your doctor before adding corrective movements, especially if you have spinal complications such as herniated discs or disc degeneration.
Your spine consists of 33 bones. Seven of these vertebrae are in the neck, or cervical, spine; 12 in the upper-middle thoracic region; five in the lumbar, or low back; five in the sacral and four in the coccygeal area.
The cervical and lumbar curve outward, while the thoracic and sacral spine curve inward. These curves make the spine movable and cushions the vertebrae against impact. Between each of the vertebrae exist discs made of cartilage that add extra cushioning and keep them separated so they don't jam together.
Read More: Best Exercises to Improve Posture
Deviations in the Spine
You may have kyphosis, which refers to an excessive curve in the cervical area, or lordosis, an excessive swayback. Either can cause discs to compress and lead to muscular compensation that equals back aches, shoulder tightness and hip pain. Plus, excessive curves can throw off your balance and make it so you just can't function your best.
Sitting at a computer, texting, slouching in comfy chairs, long commutes and weak core muscles, as well as tight hips and hamstrings can cause any of these deviations. Exercises can help with these causes of misalignment.
Exercise can't help correct your spine if it's out of line due to a genetic condition, improper development in infancy or degeneration. Exercise may help prevent these conditions from getting worse, however, and prevent compensatory injuries.
Exercises to Choose
Specific functional exercises promote better back alignment. But you must choose wisely, as some positions that are great for one back misalignment can aggravate another.
Kyphosis calls for exercises that strengthen the muscles of the upper back and help you return to a natural, not forward, head posture. Upper back rows and wall angels are examples.
Read More: Exercises to Correct Kyphotic Posture
Excessive lordosis in the lower back often indicates tight erector spinae and quadratus lumorum, as well as tight hip flexors. Choose stretches, such as a runner's lunge and side bends, to loosen up these areas. Core strengthening exercises can also be an antidote to lordosis, so consider crunches and bridges too.
Read More: Postural Exercises for Lordosis
Supermans, cobras and bird dogs are other common back exercises that strengthen the supporting muscles of the spine. As long as you don't have disc problems, these moves can also benefit your back's alignment.