Supine Position and Exercise Practices: A Brief Review
The supine position is one of the most common positions used during physical activity. It is often recommended by fitness instructors and trainers to help improve posture, reduce stress on the lower back, decrease strain on joints, increase blood flow to muscles and tendons, promote healing, prevent injury from overuse or trauma and improve circulation. These benefits are all true but there are some risks associated with this position.
1) Lower Back Pain: While many studies have shown no significant difference between sitting and standing up, it is still not known if the lower back pain associated with the supine position is due to poor posture or simply because people sit differently than they stand.
Research shows that when people perform activities like walking, running and lifting weights in a seated position their backs may experience greater pressure on the lumbar spine. When these individuals then move into a prone position, the pressure decreases. However, it is not clear whether this change in movement pattern causes less pressure on the lumbar spine or if the decreased pressure on the lumbar spine results in less strain on other parts of the body.
Therefore, it would seem prudent to avoid performing activities like walking while lying down and instead perform them in a standing position.
2) Chest Pain: Some studies have shown that individuals who spend more time in the supine position on a daily basis can be at greater risk for developing an acute coronary syndrome.
The exact reason for this increased risk is not clear but could be related to changes in blood pressure, heart rate and clotting of blood that occur during and after long periods of rest. It is not known if the prone position itself or the exercise that led to this position is directly related to the increased risk.
3) Breathing Difficulty and Sleep Apnea: The prone position can also be problematic for individuals who have diminished lung capacity or experience sleep apnea.
Even though the prone position is beneficial for relaxation and rest, individuals who have lung problems or experience sleep apnea will find that their symptoms are made worse when in this position.
4) Skin Irritation: The prone position may also irritate the skin.
When in this position, skin can become irritated by constant contact with a particular surface or through pressure that is applied when an individual is resting on his or her arms.
5) Muscle Fatigue: The prone position can result in fatigue if held in this position for too long.
The prone position should not be avoided during physical activity and training.
Sources & references used in this article:
Posture and movement in healthy preterm infants in supine position in and outside the nest by F Ferrari, N Bertoncelli, C Gallo, MF Roversi… – Archives of Disease in …, 2007 – fn.bmj.com
Acute effects of melatonin administration on cardiovascular autonomic regulation in healthy men by K Nishiyama, H Yasue, Y Moriyama, R Tsunoda… – American heart …, 2001 – Elsevier
Does the supine sleeping position have Any adverse effects on the child?: I. Health in the first six months by L Hunt, P Fleming, J Golding, ALSPAC Study Team – Pediatrics, 1997 – Am Acad Pediatrics
Vulnerability of respiratory control in healthy preterm infants placed supine by RJ Martin, JM DiFiore, CB Korenke, H Randal… – The Journal of …, 1995 – Elsevier