Supine Position to Relieve Back Pain

A woman in the supine position twists her spine by bringing her knees to one side.

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Supine is a word that describes the position of your body when you are lying on your back. Clinicians, such as physical therapists, use the term supine to talk or write about positions into which they place their patients when giving manual therapy, or when having them do certain stretching and back exercises that comprise the home exercise program.

If your therapist or personal trainer is giving you core stabilization exercises for the first time, most likely she will start you in the supine position. This is because when you are supine, your muscles have the least amount of work to do to maintain your posture and position against the force of gravity.

The word supine (as well as related words such as prone, side lying and more) are used when therapists record your exercises in your patient record. 

The opposite of supine is prone, which is the stomach lying position. Supine is pronounced: soo pine.

Things You Can Do for Your Back in the Supine Position

Here's are a few things you can do to relieve low back pain from the supine position.

First, you can release the tension out of your back by assuming the hook lying position (which is a modification of the supine position where your knees are bent and your feet are resting flat on the floor.) Start with breathing and relaxing, allowing the tension to drain out of your muscles.  

You can also work in supine to activate your deep core muscles, which are key for a healthy back. With core muscles, it's important to skillfully access them before using them full out. So spending a bit of time learning how to ignite them may go a long way towards developing low back support.

After you've warmed up with the muscle tension release described above, as well as the core activation exercise, you might want to move on to actual exercise. The beginner's program, which is still pretty gentle and non-demanding, will have you stretching and strengthening your hips and back. It's a good every day "tune-up" experience that can be used for maintenance and/or prevention.  

Another thing you can do for your back while in supine is yoga. As with any exercise program, not all yoga poses take place with you lying on your back, but many of the beginner's and restorative ones do.

For example, the supine spinal twist involves lying on your back, bending your knees and then gently placing them to one side. The idea is to stay in that position for a few moments — and breathe — to allow your oblique abdominal muscles as well as your back muscles to release.

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