It is so easy to get comfortable in a bad posture position. Looking down at a keyboard or slumping on a too soft couch can throw off your posture until it feels normal. However, if you could actually see the damage of these unnatural positions, you would take steps to correct them as soon as possible.
There is a name for the imbalance of the neck, head, and shoulders that have become misaligned. Upper cross syndrome can develop from sitting for the majority of the day and continuously exhibiting poor posture. There is also lower cross syndrome for the low back and pelvic regions as well. Common signs of upper cross syndrome include:
- Rounding of the shoulders
- Forward head posture
- Pain in the shoulders
- Pain in the neck
Here are 5 great stretches and exercises to improve your posture. With every pull and tug that your muscles feel, you will realize just how seriously damaged your posture has become.
How to Fix Forward Head Posture
Stop and notice the people walking down the street. You will be surprised at just how many pedestrians suffer from forward head posture. This posture imbalance is one of the most common conditions found in our society today. It comes from always looking forward at a computer screen, driving a car or even reading a book. We subconsciously strain our head forward and before long it becomes a habit.
To see if you suffer from this condition, take your index and middle fingers and push lightly on your chin. If you feel your head moving backwards, you have forward head posture imbalance. Take a few minutes each day to test yourself with this exercise and you will suddenly become aware of how many times your head is leaning forward from the rest of your body. Young people are developing this syndrome at an alarming rate from all of the technological devices that are in use.
Chest and Shoulder Opener
Rounded shoulders and weakness in the upper back can be caused by constantly looking forward, working at a computer, or holding and carrying items. If you feel that your arms are losing mobility, they could be tightened from overuse. The upper back should be our support in keeping our posture in place.
Stand beside a wall sideways. Stretch out your arm closest to the wall and place your palm flat against the wall. The idea is to move closer to the wall until your arm is at a 45-degree angle between the top of your head and your back. It may impossible to do at first, depending on how out of shape you are. But, keep working toward your goal and feeling the muscles begin to gain strength. This will help to gain the right posture in your upper extremities and take the pressure off of your chest and shoulders.
Active Child’s Pose
This stretch will work the shoulders, core and lower back all at the same time. In addition to stretching your entire spine, your blood flow and flexibility will improve by bettering your posture.
Get down on your hands and knees. Widen your knees to match your shoulder width. With the palms of your feet facing the ceiling, move your feet until the big toe on each foot is touching the other foot. Walk your hands away from your body above your head. When you have extended your arms as far out as you can, take your hips and place on your feet. You will feel every inch of your spine pull as if hanging from a ceiling.
Rest your forehead on the floor and concentrate on your breathing. Take 5 to 10 long deep breaths before standing up.
How to get Rid of Neck Hump with a Sock
A Dowager’s Hump occurs when you have spent years looking forward and the area around the seventh vertebrae has formed into a slight rounded hump. There is a way to get your position back to the original posture with lots of practice and determination.
Without spending money on contraptions that are used by physical therapists, grab a pair of clean socks. The idea behind a pair of socks is to form a cushioned ball for stretching the area in question. The seventh vertebrae is located about six inches below your collarbone. Position your sock ball on this part of your spine and either lie on it or use in a sittig position. Place pressure by leaning back. You will be surprised at how good it feels to have your spine adjusting back from a neck hump to a straightened position.
Just because your lower back hurts does not mean that this is the area in question. Stretching your spine to alleviate back problems often comes from a problem in another region. The thoracic spine (the central region) is often the culprit. The thoracic release addresses the lower and upper back to release tension in both parts.
Lie down on the floor on your back. Place your arms straight out from your body. Bring your knees up to a 90-degree angle. Have someone place a soft object, like a small pillow or piece of foam between your knees and hold in place by squeezing your knees shut. While in this position, roll to one side until your knee touches the floor. Hold this position for five seconds and roll to the other side. Pay attention to your breathing to make sure it is even and steady. This will give your entire thoracic and lower spine a good stretch.
Another thoracic release exercise concentrates on the thoracic area only. Called the prezel, Lie on your right side. With your right arm grab your foot and pull it behind you. While in this position, grab your left leg with your left arm and pull behind the knee toward your front. Ease your back toward the floor while remaining in this pose.
There are several other exercises that focus on the shoulder and neck area to help strength muscles and to align to a normal posture. When stress is placed on the neck, upper back and shoulders, headaches can occur. Stretching these areas can keep your muscles from becoming tense and stay more flexible. Simple movements, such as pushing down the top of the head to the opposite shoulder can improve the range of movement in the shoulders. You can feel the pull. This can be done several times a day while sitting at your desk or driving in your car.
There are also many exercises within the Yoga spectrum that are similar to stretching exercises. Yoga can improve flexibility, but can also strengthen the soft tissue our bodies are made of.
A popular item for improving posture is called the balance ball chair. Designed for improving core strength, increasing productivity rates, and facilitating better posture, if you feel you need a crutch go get into exercise mode, this is a good selection.
Another item for improving posture is a posture-correcting back brace. These yoga-inspired braces actually force your back to remain in a straight posture position without causing any stress.
Regardless of which exercise or method you choose to use, improving your posture can save your body from medical problems in the future. Medications do not always solve the problem of aches and pain. They only provide relief for a few hours. Get to the root of your pain and take a good look at your posture. Poor posture can also be the cause of:
- Digestive problems increasing the risk for acid reflux and constipation.
- Proper posture improves your mood.
- Muscle and joint function stays healthy as we grow older.
Good posture is more than standing up straight. To improve posture you have to strengthen how your body balances, and how it moves. Stretching and the right exercises can provide this. Deep breathing is another way to train your body to live with less stress and pain. Deep breathing is also called abdominal or belly breathing. It involves inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose, causing the lungs to fill with air as the belly expands. Place your hand against your abdomen beneath your rib cage and exhale. Breath deeply and follow the movement of your hand. If your hand moves as your abdomen expands, you’re breathing correctly. If your hand does not move, you are a shallow breather and should work on improving.