Good posture represents the correct alignment of bones and joints while standing, sitting and moving. When alignment is right, muscles are balanced and work efficiently. That muscle balance is important for preserving neck, shoulder, and low back health.
People with good posture tend to feel better, have less pain and breath easier. They also present well and project confidence. But correct postural alignment is seriously challenged by the way many of us work and live. The hours we spend seated while commuting, at work and relaxing tend to add up to a lot of slumping. The head moves forward, taking the neck and shoulders with it and gradually causing the back to round too. Computers, tablets and smart phones create especially difficult conditions.
Since the body adapts to static positions, sitting slumped over for long periods leads to poor posture. Muscles along the back of the neck and shoulders work extra hard to fight the pull of gravity on the head. They get stretched and weakened while the muscles on the front are shortened and get tighter. This adds up to muscle imbalances that cause dysfunction and greater potential for pain.
Since the body adjusts to being stationary for long periods, introduce more opportunities to move into your daily routine. For computer work, a sit to stand desk or adjustable desk top platform is a nice option. Or, set a reminder to get up and move for a minute every 20-30 minutes. Of course, being aware of gradual slumping so you shift your position and re-align in your chair is most important. Whether at work or at home, reset your position frequently and take every opportunity to move.
Exercise can help correct the effects of poor posture. The right exercises for you will depend on exactly how your body had adapted, but here’s a progression that addresses common problem areas:
1.Use a foam roller and tennis ball (or lacrosse ball) on upper back, chest and shoulders. Find a tender spot and hold steady pressure on it for 30-60 seconds.
2.Stretch upper back, chest and shoulders. Move to the point where you feel a stretch, hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat once.
3.Use a roller for upper back mobility. Start with the roller at the middle of your back and stretch over it a few times, holding your abdomen tight. Move up your spine towards your shoulders about an inch and repeat all the way up to your shoulders.
4.Do 2 or 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions of these exercises to reset the muscles around your shoulders.
Try focusing on your posture and use these strategies if you find yourself slipping. It’s worth the effort for improving and maintaining the way you look and feel.