Do you ever here this expression? Or where someone is called ‘spineless’? Thankfully I’ve not heard either for a long time but let’s face it, we probably have all heard it at some point in our life. And what does it mean?

When I google ‘spineless’ it is defined in the Oxford dictionary as ‘weak and purposeless’ or ‘having no spine’ obviously! I define part of my work as ‘learning with backbone and heart’ and associate the backbone here with strength so yes I link the backbone or spine with strength rather than weakness. Am I ‘right’ to do so and if the spine is so strong, why do we often feel cautious about how we move it?

According to a 2019 study, circa 20% of the U.K. population has back pain at any one time. That’s quite a statistic. But did you know that the average spine can withstand more than 2000 lbs of pressure? Did you know that the average spine is stable and capable of handling huge amounts of bending and stress? Yet, most people in pain will have been told they are weak, tight, frail or unstable. If you’re diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, then you may fear breaking your bones whilst being active. As someone who has been diagnosed with one of these, in my experience being told you’re frail it’s not helpful.

How wonderful that our spines are inherently stable and strong.

Our spines are more like this

And it’s not just all about the bones. It helps to remember we’re not designed, we evolved. Our joints evolved to transmit force because we’re always working with gravity. You may remember your school days of being taught the spine is a column and of course, we still find this in most anatomy books today. But it’s not a column! Yep you read that right. It was called a column because it was thought it would evolve to be straight. I find that so mind-blowing. Our spines evolved to side bend and rotate and they have to do this to create movement. And we were born to move! Have you ever seen a spine in an anatomy class hung from a peg so we can learn how it is structured? If we take it off the peg it collapses. So let’s remember the bones need muscles, tendons, ligaments, connective tissue, blood and so on to make them strong. Our bodies are so amazing because everything has evolved to support and work with everything else. Let’s move our spines with awareness in as many ways as possible to maintain the movement we have. To re-awaken neural connections. To keep the body (and mind)  strong. To appreciate with awe the beauty of the whole.

Oh yes and let’s never use the word ‘spineless’ again when describing a fellow human. 😊