4 easy moves to improve posture and alleviate pain
Last week on Orthology we covered how to prevent poor posture at your work station, but how do you establish good posture from the get-go?
It all starts with postural endurance, or in lay terms, your ability to hold your body in a stable and efficient position. You can think of good posture as a type of fitness. Your muscles support your skeleton, keeping it in alignment when it’s still and when it’s moving. Sounds easy enough, but think about your position right now. You’re probably reading this on a device of some sort — are you a little hunched? Are you looking down at the device? Are you lounging in bed or on the couch? All these positions have a tendency to sacrifice posture.
Knowing that we all do a little hunching from time to time, let’s get into the basics of poor posture so we can learn how to prevent it.
What’s the big deal about bad posture?
Poor posture stresses certain joints and muscles, and can lead to those muscles being overworked and fatigued. It can also exacerbate arthritis, lead to shoulder and neck pain, cause negative impacts on respiratory function, result in constipation, and it can even affect your mood.
How do I know if I have bad posture?
We all have “bad” posture sometimes. No one expects you to sit military straight while watching Netflix. But if you’re noticing some of the symptoms of poor posture, then it might be time for a “postural overhaul.” Here are some symptoms of poor posture:
- Rounded shoulders
- Bent knees when standing or walking
- Head that either leans forward or backward
- Back pain
- Body aches and pains
- Muscle fatigue
If any of this sounds familiar, start by checking in on your posture throughout. Create an alarm that goes off every hour or so — when it goes off, examine your posture. Are you hunching over? Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, look straight ahead. If that’s a serious adjustment to how you were standing or sitting before, your posture might need some work.
You can also solicit the watchful eye of a partner or roommate. Ask them to tell you any time they notice you slouching. (Just be prepared to take the criticism!)
What does good posture look like?
To see what good posture feels like, use the “wall test.” The wall test involves standing against a (you guessed it) wall, with the back of your head, shoulder blades, and butt all touching the wall. Your heels should be about 2-4 inches away from the wall.
Then put your hand behind the small of your back. You should be able to put a flat hand between your lower back and the wall without room for much else. If you have a lot of space between your lower back and the wall, pull in your belly button toward your spine.
If you can’t squeeze your hand behind your back, arch your back just enough to slide your hand behind you.
Lastly, step away from the wall, holding this posture. That position is a good approximation of proper posture.
What can I do to prevent poor posture?
You don’t want to do the wall test every time you need to correct your posture, and luckily, you don’t have to.
Orthology’s own Laken Frericks, a physical therapist at our Nicollet Mall location in Minneapolis, has a few simple moves you can incorporate in your day-to-day to improve your postural endurance and ease pain in the long run. Repeat each of these exercises periodically through the week. These are simple exercises you can do at home.
1. Scapular Retractions
We know, it’s quite the name. But you can think of these as shoulder blade squeezes. Sit on a chair at a desk or table, and gently hold the desk or table with your hands so your elbows are at 90 degree angles. Sit up straight, and pull your shoulder blades together without lifting them toward your ears. Release and repeat 10-15 times.
2. Chin Tucks
Start in a seated position with your shoulders relaxed, looking straight forward. Then, without tilting your head to look up or down, tuck your chin in as to resemble a double chin. Hold that position, and then release. Repeat 10 times.
3. Pectoral Stretch
There are many ways to stretch your pectorals, but one of the simplest is the doorway stretch. Stick your arms straight out to your sides, and then bend at the elbows to make 90 degree angles with both arms with your palms facing forward. Then, press your forearms against either side of a door. Very gently step forward until you feel a stretch. Remember, stretches should not be painful. If you’re experiencing pain, ease back.
4. Pelvic Tilt
For this exercise, lie with your back on the floor, knees bent, feet flat on the floor with toes facing forward. Then, pull your belly button in toward your spine, flattening your back against the floor. Hold for five seconds, and then release. The stomach muscles should feel engaged or tight. Repeat 10 times.
These four simple moves can you get on the path to great posture. And if you need a little more help, the team at Orthology is always there for you.