A person who stands tall, sits straight and bows with perfection is confidence personified. Prolonged poor
posture can change the anatomical characteristics of the spine. Blood vessels
and nerves could constrict resulting in problems in the muscles, discs and
joints. This can result in severe back and neck pain, headaches, fatigue, and
concerns with major organs and breathing.
correction can go a long way in improving muscle tone. Remove
misconceptions regarding correct posture and learn simple posture exercises to
keep sore backs and necks at bay!
What is correct posture?
Proper posture keeps all parts balanced and supported. Ideally 'correct posture' means sitting with back
straight, chest up and out and belly tucked in. It would be a good idea to
align one's ears, shoulders and hips by standing in front of a mirror. The ears
should rest loosely above the shoulders and above the hips. The spine should be
construed as a slight 'S'. If any pain is experienced then it is an unnatural
position and incorrect posture.
Good posture and back support help
reduce back and neck pain. Simple strenuous exercises that can strengthen the
muscles across the upper back and shoulders should help. Similarly stretches
relieve sore back and neck. Alternatively, one can opt for ballet or yoga
classes for excellent posture. Such activities stretch the body and muscle from
the lethargy of sleep and raise one's energy level.
A regular exercise regimen should strengthen the muscles across the upper back and shoulders. Given below are
certain exercises aimed to check your posture:
Cervical retraction: This exercise is for correcting cervical
posture. Take a chair and sit straight quite comfortably. The feet should rest
on the floor. Pull up the chin straight in without nodding the head up or down.
Repeat a few times.
Breastbone Lift: This exercise is performed to strengthen the lower
trapezius muscles. Simply sit at ease and life the breast bone few inches
higher. Gently compress the shoulder blades down and together.
Shoulder Blade squeeze: Sit on a chair with hands resting on the
thighs. Feel at ease, and slowly move the shoulders backwards and squeeze the
shoulder blades together.
Abdominal tuck-in: Abdominal pull is a simple exercise that helps
to tuck in the bulging belly. Pull the tummy in while inhaling and then exhale
gradually at ease. Repeat it as many times as possible on a count of five.
Simple alignment exercises
Align ears over shoulders and raise both arms
straight up alongside the ears. Bend forearms toward shoulders so as to touch
the shoulder blades. Repeat ten times with both arms and then alternate ten
times for each arm singularly.
Align ears with shoulders and raise both arms
out to sides at shoulder height. Hold for a slow count of ten. Then slowly
lower the arms to sides. Again raise arms back to shoulder height counting ten.
This can be repeated about ten times constantly checking the alignment.
Keep both hands on the shoulders and raise both
elbows , hold for 2 counts and then lower them back to waist. Do as many times as
Exercises for improving posture
Thread a ruler behind shoulders through the arm holes of a sleeveless top. This is to keep the
shoulders well back. Keep this ruler in place for about 15 -20 minutes daily.
Stand with feet
slightly apart. Hold arms straight on to the side at right angles to body.
Swing both arms backwards following a circle and then bring them back to
position. Repeat as many as 30 times.
Stretches for sore back or neck
Tilt head in all four directions over the
shoulders, forward, back, left or right. Gently massage neck. Avoid rolling in
a circle as this may cause further strain.
Curl back upwards like a cat and then the
opposite on hands and knees.
Superman stretch: This stretch should be felt in the front and back of the
shoulders, across the back of the neck, and back, hamstring and calves. The aim
of this stretch is to finish at 90 degrees angle; lean forward onto a stretch
band or any other object. Keep feet shoulder width apart and lean forward with
arms extended and resting on a steady object or the stretch band. Push backside
out, keep shoulders high. Gently straighten the legs and control the stretch.
The superman reverse stretch is to step forward
pull arms upward behind the back. This stretch is meant for anyone who has
rounded shoulders from desk work. This is a great stretch for chest muscles.
Should be done with a stretch band. Hang the stretch band over a steady object
and grab hold of it, making sure that underarm grip on the stretch bank and
palms toward ceiling. Keep arms straight and body vertical. Step forward
pulling arms behind. Abs should be held tight and chest out and head up to
control the stretch.
Hamstrings stretch improves flexibility for the back. A stretch band can help perform
this stretch effectively. Attach band halfway along foot and lift one leg
straight in the air. Keep knee straight and pull toes toward head. Stretch a
little further and relax into the stretch. Pull back the toes to increase the
stretch into the calf muscles.
Sitting : The back should be aligned with the back of the chair. No
slouching or leaning forward even when tired from sitting in the office chair
for long periods. The shoulders should be kept straight. One can flex arms at a
75 - 90 degree angle at the elbows and adjust the chair suitably. The neck,
back and heels should remain aligned. Feet should rest flat on the floor. Use a
foot rest if needed.
Unbalanced postures such as
crossing the legs unevenly while sitting or leaning too much onto one side
should be avoided. Using proper corrective eyewear and positioning of computer
screens at comfortable positions to avoid leaning or straining the neck or
using posture friendly props should help.
Standing: Distribute the body weight evenly to the front, back and
sides of the feet while standing. It is better that weight mostly falls on the
balls of the feet and not on the heels. Knees should not be locked. Feet should
remain slightly apart, about shoulder width. Arms can hang naturally down the
sides of the body. The head level has to be kept with chin tucked in. The head
should rest on top of the neck and spine and not pushed out forward. While
standing against a wall, the shoulders and bottom can touch the wall. The back
of the head can also touch the wall; otherwise the head is carried too far
Walking: While walking it is essential to keep head up and eye
looking straight ahead. Shoulders should be properly aligned with the rest of
the body without pushing head forward.
Sleeping: A firm mattress is good for proper back support although
much depends on individual preferences. Sleep on the side or back and not on
the stomach. Head and shoulders should be properly aligned using a pillow. Some
use a rolled up towel to be placed under the neck or under the knees to enable
better support for the spine. Similarly those sleeping on the side can use a
flat pillow to be placed between the legs to keep the spine aligned and
Driving: Proper back support is essential while driving. Firmly
seat the back on the seat. Avoid leaning forward and maintain the seat at
proper distance from the pedals and steering wheel. The head of the driver has
to be held upright and a headrest should support the middle portion of the
head. Ideally the distance between the head to headrest should be not more than
Carrying objects: Never bend at the waist, only at the knees. Similarly
never lift with the lower back and only with large leg and stomach muscles.
Some prefer to use support belt to help maintaining a good posture while
lifting objects. It is recommended to keep larger objects closer to the chest.
It is advised to switch arms when things are carried with one arm. Backpacks
should always be as light as possible. Avoid leaning forward while carrying a
backpack if it weighs much. Instead consider using a rolling backpack with
Head posture problems
People who work with computers
for long hours seem to develop forward head posture where the head juts forward
and does not sit over the shoulders. Many attempt to correct their neck posture
by using specialized pillows and supports to hold their head back or focus on
neck related a posture exercise which is not adequate to solve their problems. Pelvis
and lower back areas have to be corrected for posture to make a lasting change
to their problems.
Shoulder pain and posture
Shoulders can hurt so much that some feel that they seem to roll forward. The trauma of gravity pulling
shoulders down can result in severe shoulder pain. The best solution to this
problem is to find exercises that counteract the move of shoulders rounding
forward. Improved shoulder posture enables one to breathe a lot more easily as
the shoulder does not push down the ribcage now. This helps the person relax,
decrease stress and stay healthier.
Over time, poor posture tends to become second
nature. Poor posture can result from every day activities such as sitting for
long durations in office chairs, looking at the computer or standing or driving
for long periods of time or even sleeping. This results in aggravating back
pain, shoulder pain and damage to spinal structures.
Common instances of poor posture include
slouching with shoulders hunched forward, swaying back with too much of inward
curve in the lower back, cradling the phone receiver between the neck and
shoulder, carrying something heavy and leaning on one side of the body, holding
the head too high or too low, and sleeping with improper mattress or pillow in
a compromising posture.
Posture ergonomics and exercise
- Beware of warning signs and signals of back pain.
This may have been actually caused by poor ergonomics and posture. Sudden
back pain is realized with a new job when seated in a new office chair or
even in a new car with insufficient seat adjustments.
- A relaxed posture with frequent change in positions
can be of great help in curbing poor posture. Break from sitting in an
office chair every half hour for two minutes, stretch, stand or walk
before getting back to the seat.
- Exercises help prevent injury and promote good
posture. Swim, walk or cycle to stay aerobically conditioned. There are
specific exercises that can help muscles to stay atleast 30% stronger.
- Supportive footwear is essential when standing. High
heeled shoes can affect the body's center of gravity and change alignment
of the entire body. This can badly affect back support and posture. While
standing for long periods of time, a rubber mat can be placed on the floor
to improve comfort.
- Even while in motion such as walking, lifting or even
holding a telephone, ergonomics and posture require attention. Back
injuries result from bad posture and awkward movements.
The spine and structures of the body are designed for
movement. Any limitation in motion for long periods of time can only create
more pain. Right posture is the foundation upon which a balanced workout, deep
breathing, effective digestion and efficient and healthy functioning of the
body organs are built.