Do you remember when you were younger and your mother told you to stand up straight? Well, it turns out, mothers really do know best after all. Having good posture is essential to your health and well being. Poor posture creates stress for virtually all parts of your body. It can cause everything from headaches, neck tightness, back issues and even knee and ankle pain. Here are some simple ways you can improve your posture and save yourself a trip to the doctor.
Neutral Posture is an optimal position of the spine which distributes equal amounts of force on the supporting tissues, i.e. muscles, bones, spinal discs and joints, which means less stress on the body. Here is a simple way to achieve neutral posture. Divide your body into 3 parts: neck, shoulders and pelvis. For each of those parts find a position where you exert the least amount of energy to maintain that posture in a comfortable manner. This is the place where your body remains straight and tall, effortlessly. Check yourself periodically to be sure your body is in neutral posture and you will find yourself looking and feeling better.
Belly breathing, also referred to as diaphragmatic breathing, can help relax the neck muscles while improving your posture. When you inhale, you expand your diaphragm allowing your lungs to fill with air. In a slouched position (flexed upper back and forward shoulders), the lungs get compressed limiting diaphragmatic expansion when inhaling. The body will then compensate by increasing the amount of breathes it makes to uptake the required oxygen amounts. This compensation process putts greater demand on neck and shoulder muscles which may cause muscle spasms, soreness, and tension headaches. Practicing belly breathing will help expand the chest, relieve stress and keep you upright.
- Inhale deeply, filling your belly with air before allowing it to flow upward into your chest. Simple, yet very effective!
Stretch your pecs. Throughout the day, we engage with the world directly in front of us. This happens during common activities such as using the computer, driving or cooking. Your pecs (pectoralis major and minor), or chest muscles as most people know them, are shortened when you bring your arms forward. If not stretched, they will slowly tighten reinforcing a slouched posture (i.e flexed upper back and forward shoulders). Fortunately, there is an easy way to be sure your pecs are stretched throughout the day.
- Stand in an open doorway and place your forearms on each side of the door frame. Take a small step forward and lean your body forward until you feel a stretch in your chest/anterior shoulders. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 2 more times (3 times total). Repeat at least three times a day, more if desired.
Strengthen your back muscles. Having a strong back will help you tolerate upright posture for longer periods of time.
- Lie on your belly, in a superman position. Lift your legs and arms off the floor and hold the position for as long as you can. Repeat 2 more times (3x times total).
It's that simple. By integrating these easy changes into your daily routine you will start to notice your pesky pains disappearing! Sometimes there is such a thing as a quick fix.