Retaining Rotation: Why It’s So Important and How Pilates Helps

By: Carla Ricalis

There are certain moves we do every day that we don’t really think about; like reaching into the back seat of the car, putting on a jacket, or turning from the stove to reach for something on the counter behind you.

If a daily movement task starts to cause discomfort, most of us will adapt by finding different ways to rotate, reach and pull. Sometimes this is so subconscious that we’re not even aware our range of motion has diminished.

When we start to modify our movement to reduce discomfort or pain, it’s hard for the body to regain that optimal range of motion.

And what many of these everyday movements have in common, is the rotation of the spine.

Make the Connection

You may not know this, but your spine is made up of 3 sections with different vertebrae in each: the cervical spine, which consists of 7 vertebrae that make up the neck region; the 12 thoracic vertebrae, which make up the mid spine and are attachments for your ribs; and the lumbar spine, which has 5 vertebrae that are housed in the pelvis.

Each section has a different range of movement in forward, back, side-bending, and rotation. The cervical spine has the greatest overall range, while the thoracic and lumbar are a bit more restricted.

Any time we reach with one arm, whether in front, overhead, or behind us, the spine is involved. If we don’t have a fluid range of motion with optimal movement patterns that involve key areas of the spine, we begin to unnecessarily overwork other joints and areas of the body.

For example, if we lack the proper range of motion in our thoracic spine to reach behind us, our body will access the movement in other areas like our lumbar spine, which has significantly less rotation ability. Over time this can contribute to lower back pain.

Running and walking are complex movements that need a healthy, supported spiral pattern from our legs, through our pelvis, and upwards to our thoracic and cervical regions. But if pain is causing us to hold our spines in a locked or braced position, then the impact of our feet hitting the ground can place an unnecessary force load into our legs. Over time, this can cause unnecessary wear and tear in our hips and knees.

All the Right Moves

Rotation is one of the movements we need to do daily. If we don’t, we could lose it as part of our movement toolkit.

By setting aside 5 minutes every day to do gentle, dynamic movements like the ones in the video below, you’ll be optimizing the quality of movement and stability that a strong, supple spine can provide for everyday tasks and exercise.

Whether your day is filled with tasks like working in the kitchen, or activities like golfing, this simple and easy movement sequence is one that you can do first thing in the morning or throughout your day. It doesn’t take long, feels good, and is part of a healthy routine to keep your spinal movement optimal. Try it out and let us know how you feel!

For Instructors

Are you an instructor looking for more ways to add spinal rotation into your clients’ workouts? Check out The Pilates Resource Catalogue for exercises and sequences.