Without question, you think about a lot of things during the average workday… but your posture may not be one of them. Then comes that dull ache, a kink in your neck, a twitch in your back and all the other common posture problems.
Respected chiropractor Dr. Neil Stakes explains that our bodies are designed for movement, and being able to get into or out of positions is a sign of flexibility, mobility and good health. So common posture problems can arise in periods of inactivity.
“Bad posture is related to the body’s maladaptation to positions assumed for a very long period of time,” says Dr. Stakes. “The body gradually adapts to the posture and lays down fibrous tissues to support that posture over time.”
Hands raised if this sounds like you working from home! Yep, that’s about everyone. Left untreated, these poor habits can compound into bigger issues such as arthritis, spinal and joint degeneration and loss of mobility.
“A neutral spine is important for good posture,” says Marina Goddu, a certified physiotherapist who stresses that awareness is the first step in the right direction. “It doesn’t mean it’s straight. Our spine has three natural curves that, when viewed from the side, form an ‘S’ shape.” In that position, the spine and muscles have maximal stability to keep our bodies upright.
With these two pros’ input, we’ve identified 4 of the most common posture problems out there – and how to fix them plus exercises to try before you go into traction:
1. The chair slouch
In this position, your upper back is rounded and C-shaped. Your hip bones are pulled backwards, the bottom part of your pelvis is pushed forward and the curve in your lower back flattened. It may feel comfortable, but here’s what is really happening: Your vertebrae are crunched down together, increasing tension in the discs, which results in lower back pain, pinched nerves and potentially, spinal misalignment. Not to mention, tight hamstrings, weak abdominal and gluteal muscles.
Fix it: When sitting, move closer to the edge of your chair, with one leg slightly forward and one leg back, and your feet flat on the floor. Your knees should be level with, or slightly lower than your hips. Put a pillow in the arch of your back to maintain the natural curve of your spine.
Work it: Bridges, back extensions and planks to strengthen your core and glutes.
2. Text neck
If you’re reading this on a mobile device, there’s a strong possibility you’ve got your head forward, shoulders curved and back hunched – in short, “text neck” (check out the photo of the woman at the top of this article). Yup, this is one of the more common posture problems in the age of technology. Let’s put this in perspective: The average human head weighs about 5 kg in a neutral position (when your ears are aligned with your shoulders). The more you tilt your head forward, the greater the pressure on your spine. This constant flexion can yank your back out of alignment; leading to muscle strain, pinched nerves and headaches, or worse, early degeneration – herniated disc, anybody?
Fix it: Be aware of your head position when using your device, keeping your screen at eye level to prevent your neck from falling forward.
Work it: Doing gentle movements like chin tucks or cat stretch helps with spinal articulation, while downward-facing dog opens up your chest walls and shoulders.
3. Slumped shoulders
Habits, including slouching and text neck, encourage your shoulders to roll forward. It seems inconsequential, but when this happens, the space between the humerus (ball-shaped bone in your shoulder) and shoulder blade decreases, causing muscle imbalances and inflammation of the joints. The dangers are real: frozen shoulder, impingement, tendonitis and joint degenerative arthritis. Yikes!
Fix it: Make it a habit of rolling your shoulders back and down, keeping your neck lengthened upward and chin tucked in.
Work it: Chest openers and scapula (shoulder blades) exercises like doorway chest stretches, wall slides and hand clasp to lengthen shortened muscles, while band pull-aparts will strengthen major back muscles.
4. The leg lean
We’ve all done this while waiting in line, or walking with a bag on one shoulder. According to Dr. Stakes, though, this can lead to maladaptive changes in the spine and surrounding muscles, and more severely, scoliosis. By placing excessive pressure on one side of your lower back and hip, you get longer, weaker muscles on one side, and shorter, tighter muscles on the other. Your pelvis starts to tilt, throwing you off-kilter. Pain may develop in the hip area or buttocks, radiating into the leg. Eventually, the whole spine deviates.
Fix it: “Think of your body as a building,” Goddu says. “Your legs are its foundation, so when you stand, distribution of your weight should be 50/50.”
Work it: Strengthen your glutes and improve hip mobility with reverse leg raises and clamshells, as well as planks to correct uneven hips.
Don’t you feel better already?
Originally by Lydia Ng, March 2020 / Last Updated by Brooke Glassberg
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