Despite the fact that my teenager has me constantly massaging his neck, he doesn’t believe that poor posture has anything to do with his neck tension and pain. Sadly, he is sorely mistaken.
Posture has everything to do with how our body feels. If you slouch one time for a minute, it’s no big deal, your body will recover. But if you slouch, every day, for 30 years, your body will protest. Here’s why:
When you stand up straight, there is a plumb line from your head to your feet. Gravity’s effect on your muscles is less as it takes less effort to hold you up. Slouching is different. Imagine a spring with a weight on the end: the longer the weight stays on the spring stretching it out, the harder it is for the spring to go back to its original shape when you remove the spring. When you slouch, your neck and upper back muscles get stretched out like the spring. They feel tight, but in reality they are overly stretched. Many people make the mistake of trying to stretch their neck to feel better. Actually you need to contract the muscles to feel better.
Same principle applies to sitting, at a desk or while driving in the car. When you are working at a computer, there is this “magnetic pull” of your head toward the screen that causes the same strain in the neck and upper back as described above. Plus, if your upper back is rounded forward, chances are your lower back is rounded too. Ideally you should be sitting upright on your sit bones so that your pelvis and spine are vertical with your head stacked over your hips. Slouching while sitting strains both the upper and lower back and is the cause of many people’s lower back and neck pain.
What you do with your body throughout the day and throughout your life matters. As we age, our body tolerates poor posture less and less, and we recover from it more slowly. Most adults over 50 have disc degeneration in their lumbar spine (lower back) and poor posture will create more lasting damage than if you were to sit up straight.
4 Helpful Hints for your posture:
1. When you are sitting in a car, sit with your head against the head rest then adjust your rear-view mirror. While you’re driving, if you don’t have the correct view in your mirror, that is a reminder to sit up straight again.
2. Have an alarm set on your phone to go off periodically throughout the day. When you hear the alarm, make sure you are sitting up straight.
3. Every 45-60 minutes, contract your neck and upper back muscles by shrugging and squeezing your shoulder blades together at the same time. This will relieve the discomfort in the neck and upper back as it allows the muscles to contract and shorten after being over-stretched.
4. Get up and walk around periodically through the day, thinking about keeping the spine vertical. If your lower back is bothering you, doing some cat/cow stretching can help, making sure to activate the abdominals in Cat pose and the erector muscles along the spine in Cow pose. See the video below for more yoga moves for the lower back.
To watch a video guiding you through, click here!
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