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Supine Spinal Twist and Back Pain


Updated September 29, 2010

Supine Spinal Twist - What is it?:

The supine spinal twist is essentially laying on your back and gently rotating the spine by twisting at the waist. The shoulders lay flat on the floor, while one knee is bent and brought up and crossed over the body. The other leg stays on the floor. This movement can be very therapeutic; however, it does come with a warning for people with back pain.

Ask Your Health Care Professional First:

People with back pain should ask their health care professionals if doing a twisting motion is appropriate for their condition. Some back conditions might be worsened when mechanical stress in the diagonal direction (such as a twisting motion provides) affects the spine. In particular, the following conditions are reason for caution:

Although there is very little research available, in a review of studies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a twisting motion of the spine is associated with disk prolapse.

How To Do --- and How Not to Do --- the Supine Spinal Twist:

If you get the go ahead from your doctor or physical therapist, approach the pose gently. Stay aware of how your back feels and go easier or stop if there is pain. If you feel a sharp pain, stop immediately. Do not force yourself into the position. Slip into the pose as your body allows you, and be okay with how far you've gotten. As you practice, it will improve!

Finessing for Benefits of the Pose:

If you do the supine spinal twist, something to think about while you are in the pose is that the relationship between your shoulders and hips are connected through your spine. To finesse for the pose's benefits, keeping your shoulders open and wide, try to relax them as much as you can, and let the effect of that ripple down your spine.

Relax and Engage the Oblique Abdominal Muscles:

As you exhale, allow the tension in the front of your abdominal region to melt away; allow that area to become empty. This will engage more of your oblique abdominals. The oblique abdominals are the muscles responsible for the movement of spinal twist.


1 NIOSH Publication 97-141, National Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. Center for Disease Control. July 1997. Center for Disease Control. 3 Dec 2006
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