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.
Posture 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
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
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 forward.
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 straight.
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 four inches.
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 wheels.
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
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.