Negative, Neutral, Positive: Where is Your Structural Stability?
In the years we have been discussing the concepts around spine and nerve system function, we are constantly looking for ways to improve the words we use to describe the internal operation of the body. In this pursuit, we would like to introduce a concept that has shown significant promise in how you relate to your spine, your body and your overall health. Being connected to Pennington Family Chiropractic, you already know that the spine is super important for several reasons. One is that it is the structural center of your system, the pillar that supplies the movement basis for every step, turn and run you take. Another is that it also is the protector of your spinal cord and nerves, the major controlling and coordinating system of every single body function. With these two pieces alone, it is clear that the function of your spine should be something that you check regularly, or sadly face the consequences of a failing, weakening body. When thinking about the types of stability that is possible in the spine, it is helpful to consider three basic states that describe a region of the spine, or the whole spine itself. Negative Stability: this describes the state most people find themselves in when they are in pain, losing normal motions and having significant issues. The spine itself is weak and unstable, causing major limitations in your normal movements, mild to severe pain levels, and constantly high levels of muscle tension required to prop up your weak spinal pillar. The time spent in this phase contributes to the degeneration of the spine and associated nerves, ligaments and muscles. Negative Stability also has the highest level of nerve obstruction, causing more difficulty in complex body functions like digestion, muscle coordination (like in strength and agility), and hormone regulation. You might think that stiffness and mild recurring pain in your mid-back and recurring acid reflux or digestive issues are not connected, but you nerve spinal functions are how these imbalances are caused for some people. Neutral Stability: this level of stability is less irritable than Negative Stability, but still a problem for how you use your body. In this level, there is fair movement, a mild to moderate level of stiffness, but only mild pain presentation, if at all. This type of stability can fall below the level of awareness that most people give to their bodies. It also has mild presentation of nerve obstruction, often influencing things that most people accept as normal already: poor sleep, recurring muscle aches, and the occasional headache. In Neutral Stability, your body is placing extra protection on a region of the spine that is in danger or weak, but still able to operate close to normal with most of your daily actions. When starting Structural Chiropractic Care, this is the period in which most people see themselves as "healed", meaning they have better motion and less pain. In truth, this is the level of stability where people get injuries that "come out of nowhere". Your body is propping up an instability in a Neutral phase by adding some muscle tension and motion restrictions, but still demonstrating some limitation. Positive Stability: this level of stability is the ultimate goal of Structural Chiropractic care. It correlates to the optimal level of function and health of both the spine and the underlying nerve system. Positive Stability is flexible, adapting and able to meet the needs of your activities, as long as they exist inside how your body should normally work (meaning you still shouldn't be able to twist your head all the way around, no matter how stable you become). Positive Stability also has minimal or no nerve obstruction, allowing for the greatest amount of nerve system control.
Creating an awareness for which phase you are in with regards to your stability is an effective way to proactively engage with your body. Noticing patterns of tension and irritation can allow you to correct Neutral Stability without ever falling into a Negative Stability pattern. Learning exercises, activities and adjustment frequency that allows for the promotion of Positive Stability also translates into a smart long-term plan for continued movement and a happy, healthy 100 years of life.
This tensegrity model (pictured above) represents a positive structural stability– the ability to apply forces to the whole system and it responds and adapts without breaking.