Is having good posture beneficial for your overall health? There are varying and conflicting opinions about this, but I personally believe it is very important for long term health. Now, does this mean that one must stand at attention like a drill sergeant all day long to have good posture and be pain free? Absolutely not. However, there are certain postural abnormalities that can cause increased neck, shoulder, and spine pain.
In today’s world, we spend a significant amount of time sitting, driving, working on computers, and using our phones. When we get comfortable doing these activities our trunk starts to slouch, our shoulders round, our heads jut forward, and our jaws protrude. When these positions are held for prolonged periods of time, it can lead to increased pain due to the undue stress placed on the muscles and joints of the spine. Pain can occur in the neck, jaw, shoulders, and even low back. If this is not promptly addressed, worsening symptoms can occur including radiating symptoms down the arms and onset of headaches.
The good news is that posture and the pain associated with poor posture can be addressed with exercise! The focus is to counteract the forward position that the joints and muscles are in. Over time and repetition, the neuromuscular system of the body can correct these postural faults, leading to improvements in pain and overall function.
So how can you do that?
Here are 5 exercises you can do to counteract postural abnormalities and improve pain.
Chin Tucks– This is a super easy exercise that requires no equipment and can be done anywhere! In an upright sitting position, first, start by pulling your shoulders back and gently squeezing your shoulder blades. Next, focused on tucking your chin into a retracted position. I like to cue this exercise to my patients by saying “take your chin towards your throat to make a double chin”. Doing this movement takes your head and neck out of the forward, flexed position and produces a more neutral spine position. This position is repeated multiple times for greatest effect. This can be done multiple times a day, every day while driving or working on the computer as a reminder for proper posture.
Snow angels– This exercise can be done lying down on your back or while standing with your back against a wall. Start the exercise by performing a chin tuck, then move your arms out to the sides and over your head like you are making a snow angel. This exercise will open up your chest wall, stretching out pectoral and anterior shoulder muscles. This is another exercise that can be done for repetition, 20-30 at a time every day.
Doorway stretch– This exercise is done while standing in a doorway as the name describes. The arms can be placed at both sides of the doorway at either hip height or shoulder height. Next, keep shoulders and head erect and then step into the doorway. This is another exercise that stretches the anterior chest and shoulder muscles to counteract the forward posture. When stepping into the doorway, pay attention to avoid having the head fall forward. Hold for 30-60 seconds at a time and perform 1-2 times per day every day.
Band pull-a-parts– Hold a resistance band with hands shoulder-width apart and arms at shoulder height. From there, pull both hands apart and squeeze the shoulder blades together. This exercise works to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blades and upper back in order to promote the upright posture. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Rows– Using a resistance band placed at chest height, start with your elbows straight and then pull your elbows to your sides, bending your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades at the end of the movement. This exercise also works to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blades and upper back in order to promote the upright posture. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Try out these 5 simple exercises! They are the building blocks to improving posture and ultimately improving pain caused by postural abnormalities. But as always, if you are continuing to have pain or functional difficulties related to your posture, seek out a Physical Therapist for further assistance.