You may have a posture problem and you may not know it.
You are probably sitting right now and your back is somewhere between slightly or very hunched over while reading this article. Bad posture has become far too common and some ways, a new norm for many. Jobs sitting at the desk are one of the main culprits. Our bodies should be aligned in a straight line but almost all of us either have shoulders that hunch slightly forward, a rounded upper back, or a forward pointing. Bad posture and forward head posture can cause pain, tension and problems in the spine, knees, hips, lower and upper back, shoulders and neck. Furthermore, posture problems may be the cause of pain throughout the body and a reduction in flexibility.
Any rounding of the back or shoulders or a forward tilting neck can put substantial stress on surrounding muscles. Neck problems are often the result of forward head posture and can negatively affect the upper back, causing strain and tension as the muscles attempt to work together. Another relatively newer posture problem is caused by extensive phone use and texting. As we lean the head forward, we put strain on the upper back, shoulders and neck. Posture problems should be addressed, focused on and corrected. It will take some time and effort but most posture problems are truly remediable with focused energy.
Analyze Your Body Posture to Determine the Problem
Doctors, physical therapists and health experts suggest that you start by analyzing your alignment. Stand up and without effort, relax your back and shoulders so that you are standing normally. Have someone take a photo from the front, back and each side to start to analyze your alignment. Look at your neck - does it tilt forward? Do your shoulders tilt forward? Do they look rounded forward? Imagine drawing an imaginary line straight up from your bottom to your head. Look for shoulders that point forward and any curvature in the back and spine. This is the starting point to fix your posture.
Posture Problem #1: Forward Head Posture
Maybe you cradle your cell phone or office phone between your ear and shoulder. Maybe you text a lot or use your phone a lot. Or maybe you sit in an office chair for long periods of time, ignoring your posture like many of us do. Then this one is for you. Do not fret - a forward head posture and/or shoulders are one of the most common posture problems out there. With some deliberate, focused effort, this can be corrected.
Start by using a massage ball or get a massage from an expert. Both methods, when done carefully, can be a great way to relieve tension in the neck and upper shoulders and loosen up some of the muscles to prepare for stretching. Head stretches and forward and back-facing head nods are a great way to fix a forward-leaning head. The key is good body posture and a nice straight back and neck to start. Start by moving the head backward on a straight-axis until you feel a nice stretch. Hold this for 5 seconds and repeat this motion 10 times. Perform the exercises slowly and with caution.
Repeat the movement by nodding your head forward this time. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and do this for 10 repetitions. Also perform this movement to the left and to the right.
2. Posture Problem #2: Forward-Rounded Shoulders
Start off by stretching the chest. Using one arm, gently grab hold of a doorway and turn your body away from the arm until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat the same stretch for the other side.
Bring both arms up so that they are parallel to the floor and form a 90 degree angle with your body. Gently pull the arms backward until you feel a stretch. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat 3x.
It’s also important to strengthen the muscles in your upper back in addition to stretching the pectoral muscles.
3. Posture Problem #3: Tight Hamstrings
This is one you may not have thought of it. If you are like most people today, you probably spend a large portion of the day sitting down. When we get up from sitting from long periods of time, our hips move forward to compensate for the tightness in our hamstrings and lower back pain. Tight hamstrings can often be the result of sitting for long periods of time. Our legs are in a ninety degree angle which locks the hamstrings in a fixed position.
As Jeremy Fisch from Men’s Health says, ““We sit so much. We sit at breakfast, we sit while driving to work. Being in that position all day, your glutes and hamstrings are never contracted,” Jeremy Frisch, U.S.A.W., owner and director of Achieve Performance Training in Clinton, Massachusetts, and creator of the 24-Hour Arms Workout.
The Crab Hip Hold attacks all of those muscles you rarely use while chained to your chair. “You’ll get a big contraction in your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back,” Frisch says. “A lot of people are weak in those areas. But they’re the athletic power muscles that propel you forward and allow you to run and jump high.”
Posture Problem #4: The Hips Tilt Forward
Another common problem from sitting too much are tight hips. To remedy this, hold onto a bar or wall and swing the leg from the front to back in a controlled motion to loosen up and stretch the hip flexors. Then swing the leg from left to right and back, again slowly in a controlled motion to loosen up the hips. You can also stretch using a lunge to open up the hip flexors.
You Can Fix your Posture Problems
Fixing your posture problems will require dedicated effort on a daily basis. The first step is to analyze the problem and see what needs to be fixed. The most common problems plaguing our posture are rounded shoulders, a weak lower back, tight hamstrings and glutes and a forward tilting head. Consult with your doctor or physical therapist today and put in a plan of action to fix your posture.