As a Corrective Exercise and Posture Alignment Specialist, I often use the 90-90 Position (aka Static Back) as a first step in helping clients mitigate low back and other pain symptoms.
While not structurally strengthening to the body, this exercise can be a potent pain reliever. This simple, yet profound corrective exercise enables the torso to re-discover a neutral position by allowing muscles to relax with the back and legs supported. Consider this a "go to" exercise to help calm the nervous system and bring about a healthy parasympathetic response.
Adding in diaphragmatic breathing to the 90-90 position further facilitates relaxation, particularly if you are up-regulated physically with muscle spasms in the low back, or mentally/emotionally due to stress or anxiety.
With diaphragmatic breathing exercise and passive bilateral hip flexion, rotation, elevation, and tilt of the pelvis can be balanced out just from the passive pull of gravity. Additionally, benefits include lengthening the lumbar paraspinal muscles.
While this exercise does not muscularly strengthen the body, it first mitigates pain from imbalances muscles that act on and cross the pelvis and spine from above and below. Very often clients report an increase in feeling blood flow come to the area and a significant reduction in pain symptoms. The "magic" of the exercise is simply due to providing proper alignment of the head, neck, and torso, while gently loading the shoulders and hips in a passive way, encourages the natural pull of gravity to work on the body. Over a short time (on average five to ten minutes), the imbalances resolve themselves without you having to do anything except breathe deeply and let gravity do its thing. By providing an opportunity for the muscles to relax around the hips, pelvis and along the spine, the entire body has a chance to surrender to the gentle pull of gravity, and re-establish a neutral, more symmetrically balanced position (in all three planes, frontal, transverse, sagittal) while on the floor.
When combined with additional corrective exercises designed for an individual's particular posture and function needs, the movements enable healing from pain due to chronic muscle and joint imbalances.
Benefits of 90-90 Positioning
- mitigates pain symptoms
- encourage the release of muscle tension in the hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders
- reduces rotation in the torso and hips which helps eliminate muscle imbalances from daily postural habits (work, sport, awkward sitting or sleeping positions)
- brings the body to a more neutral and optimal postural alignment before or directly after exercise/activity of daily living
- Begin my laying down on your back with your hips flexed and knees bent at a ninety-degree angle, with your legs fully supported on a bench, ottoman or some firm surface.
- Place your arms out to the sides at 45 degrees from your body with palms up. Use the “golfer’s grip/cat paw" cue to get the upper arm bones (humeri) positioned correctly.
- Place a small pad or towel behind your head if your neck feels strained, your chin and nose are poking up toward the ceiling, or your head is not level with your shoulders. Depending on your posture, the amount of padding can vary from an inch to as much as six. If that is your experience, I suggest you contact a Certified CES and have a program put together for your unique postural needs.
- Allow your neck to elongate, and the chin to drop in a downward direction toward your chest (approximately fist distance from the chin to the breastbone) to create a lengthening effect.
- Your torso area from the shoulders to the hips should remain passive.
- Allow your torso to be supported by the ground/gravity and for your body to settle into the floor. Take time to notice if your lower body settles right/left, top to bottom, and somewhat flattens to the floor evenly. Do your best to remain in a calm state as you may feel your body wanting to wiggle/shift around in this neutral position.
- Be sure to practice diaphragmatic breathing in this position.
Here is a YouTube video I created for an article I had published on PurePharma called How to Balance the Body and Recover Good Posture. It had an additional corrective exercises added to it, called the Pull-overs and Snow Angels.
Duration: 5-10 minutes (up to 20 minutes is fine as a stand alone recovery position)
Pullovers: 8-10 repetitions
Snow Angels: 10-20 repetitions
In this video you'll see the tutorial for the 90-90 (aka Static Back) Position with added exercises called Pullovers & Snow Angels. The purpose of the 90-90 Position is simple. To get the body to work bilaterally with minimal load so the muscles on either side of the spine work equally front to back, side to side and top to bottom. When your body works with the assistance of gravity in a minimally loaded way, it has a chance to realign from the torso through the hips. This exercise helps reduce rotation and muscle balance discrepancy in the hips and shoulders. By adding the arm movements, it also assists in re-positioning the shoulders, promote normal thoracic flexion/extension.
Remember that this is a generic series of corrective exercises, and as with any generic model, may be perfect or not right for you. Do not work through old painful symptoms, only muscular discomfort that is new, muscular in nature and unfamiliar.
See the help of your local Corrective Exercise, Posture Alignment or Mobility Specialist to have a program put together for your unique posture and function needs. Give them a try and let me know how it goes for you!
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Stock Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Head Photo Credit: Melissa Thome Photography
Author: Deb Preachuk is a Certified Foundation Training & STOTT Pilates Instructor, Corrective Exercise & Posture Alignment Specialist, and the founder/owner of Pain Free Posture MN.
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