Bad posture is a very common ailment today, especially with so many people in relatively sedentary jobs where being seated all day is common. Bad posture also contributes to lower back, upper back, and neck pain. This is typically associated with some classic signs:
- Protruded head position – whether standing or sitting, the head tends to float forward so it is not in alignment with your neck and spine.
- Hunched upper back – the upper back is more rounded, pushing the head further forward. The shoulder blades are also rounded, the shoulders slumped forward.
- Slouched seating – while seated, the entire back is rounded and slouched. Again, the head is typically in a forward, non-aligned position.
Your alignment can also be affected by other things such as lower body injuries (knees, ankles, etc.) or even bad shoes. However, a very common theme is weakened upper back or neck muscles. There are a couple of basic exercises you can perform to improve your posture supporting muscles.
Be sure to consult your physician before starting any exercise program, including the ones below.
Cervical Retraction Stretch
This is the most classic exercise for upper back and neck pain. On a bench or chair, sit up very straight with your feet resting on the ground. Making sure to keep your chin level (do not look up or down), pull your chin straight back without it bobbing up or down. You can use your finger to gently apply pressure as well. When fully retracted, the back of your neck should feel long. Perform 10-12 repetitions several times a day.
Shoulder Blade Squeeze and Breastbone Lift
On a bench or chair, sit up straight with your feet resting on the ground. Attempt to lift your breastbone 1-2 inches – while you are lifting, squeeze/compress your shoulder blades down and together with those muscles. Hold for a couple of seconds then release. Perform 10-12 repetitions several times a day.
These two exercises along should greatly help strengthen you upper back and neck muscles that support your postural alignment. Do them daily, especially if you tend to be in a seated position for long periods.
A few other tips that will help you:
- Make sure you get up periodically (at least once every 15m) to walk around and stretch your back and neck.
- Whether sitting or walking, be aware of your head position and strive to keep it aligned by retracting it slightly. Avoid protruding your head, especially when working in front of the computer.
- When sitting, in addition to watching head position, maintain the classic arched back position with shoulder blades back.
- For women, a posture bra is an additional way to help support your muscles as they get stronger. They are especially helpful for women who work in seated positions for long periods of time.
- Perform a regular exercise program – overall body fitness helps posture immensely.
We hope this helps – results start with you putting in the effort. Good luck!