Why Does the Spine Have Curves
Improving and maintaining the health of your spine is one of the single best investments you can make in yourself. You spine is not only responsible for protecting and ensuring the proper function of your nervous system (nerves) but also allows you to have movement from your neck down to your low back.
Anyone who has ever had their back ‘go out’ will quickly tell you that the movement they once took for granted on a daily basis is reduced almost none in a flash.
The spine, or what many people refer to as their ‘backbone,’ is actually a stack of many spinal bones (one on top of the other) that runs from the base of your skull to the bottom of your rear. Between each spinal bone is a cartilage based disc that not only separates the spinal bones so they don’t jam into each other when you bend and twist but also acts as a shock absorber allowing you to walk, run and jump without damaging the spinal bones.
How do the Curves Form?
If you look at a normal human spine from the side, you will see essentially an ‘S’ shaped structure four distinct curves… a forward curve in the neck and low back and curves that bow out towards the back at the mid back and tail bone areas.
What many people don’t realize is that you were born with one ‘C’ shaped curve in your spine, the mid-back curve which curves backwards if you are looking at the spine from the side. As a baby starts to lift the head and move it around, the curve in the neck begins to form forward – opposite of the mid back curve. Now you have 2 curves!
As the baby begins to scoot, kick and crawl, the curve in the low back begins to shape itself secondary to motion, effects of gravity, the weight of the body on the spine and just because the body is innately designed to form that curve.
Why are the Curves Important?
It’s the need for the proper formation of these spinal curves that prompts chiropractors and other spine specialist physicians to warn parents about trying too aggressively or too soon to get their baby to sit up or stand before he or she begins to show signs of starting these new activities on their own. By forcing a baby to sit up in a supportive chair or stand in a bouncer before they are able to support this posture on their own can easily lead to abnormal (too much or too little) formation of the natural spinal curves.
Each of the curves in your spine serve an important function by allowing your body to maintain balance while standing upright and sitting, move in multiple directions and overall act as a big ‘S’ shaped spring so that the spine can more evenly distribute the strain and stress placed on it by the activities you do and the pull gravity has on it even while you are sitting still.
If curves in the spine are reduced or accentuated to an abnormal level, the function of the spine reduces. As a local chiropractor, I see many cases of abnormal curves that lead to everything from local pain in the back and neck to headaches and even reduced range of motion.
In most of those cases the abnormal curvature cannot be corrected easily if at all once the patient is no longer growing. Now that you understand a little more about how the curves develop naturally in a child and the importance of this spinal contour to overall spinal health, let those you know that have young kids or that are expecting to give their babies time to develop properly. There’s no rush to get your baby to sit up, crawl or walk. After all they will be into everything soon enough on their own.