“Sit up straight!”
( admit it, are you having flashbacks to your childhood?)
You probably heard this frequently when you were growing up. Mom knew this would help you to feel and look more self-confident. But the fact is, it is waaaayyy more important as we get older than it was back then!
As we age, gravity is taking its toll and we are sinking into a hunched-over position that not only adds years to our appearance but actually can take years off our functional abilities.
What probably started as an occupational hazard from years behind a desk or a steering wheel is now exacerbated by the smartphone in our hands. And this rounded-over, forward head posture doesn’t just look bad in the short term. It causes some muscles to be tight and overactive while other muscles simply shut off. When this happens, you have undue stress along your spine from uneven tension on the joints which causes shearing stress, and pain, and can lead to degeneration of the joints.
Frequent neck or back pain more often than not can be traced back to positioning while standing, seated, and in daily activity. In fact, there is a direct correlation between poor posture and pain in the back, shoulders, and neck, It is imperative to understand how poor posture causes pain and how the right exercise program can improve alignment and alleviate the pain!
The average head weighs between 10 and 11 pounds. Essentially, we all have the equivalent of a bowling ball perched on just 7 vertebrae. Ideally, this weight should rest with the ear over the shoulder and the shoulders over the hips. However, due to our work life, and leisure activities we spend the majority of our time hunched over computers, the steering wheel, and our cell phones. All this leads to a rounded upper back and forward head.
For every inch the head hangs forward of its optimal alignment it doubles its effective weight and the stress it places on the neck and spine. So, a 10 lb. head that is jutting forward 3 inches is placing 30 lbs of shearing stress on the muscles and joints in your back.
Look around and you’ll notice this rounded shoulders and forward head positioning is all too prevalent and it’s only getting worse. But, it’s not inevitable. In fact, you can prevent, and in many cases, correct it with a prescriptive training program that focuses on stretching what’s tight, strengthening the muscles that are weak and underactive, and retraining the proper respiratory muscles. Together these will help you straighten up and maintain an upright posture and have you breathing, AND moving better with less pain in no time.
Try this little experiment. Stand beside a mirror and look down at the cell phone in your hand. Now, without straightening up or changing position, slightly turn your head so you can see your profile in the mirror. Your ear should be over the middle of your shoulder, and your shoulders over your hips. How do you measure up? Is your head 2-3-4 inches forward??
Is your head positioning adding 40 or more pounds of stress on the muscles, discs, and connective tissue all along your spine? It’s no wonder we are in pain! And this is not a minor problem. According to the American Chiropractic Association, lower back pain costs the US over $100 billion annually. $50 Billion in lost wages and lower productivity while the other half is spent on medical intervention.
While the aches and pains caused by poor posture can sometimes be temporarily alleviated by anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, and pain meds, these do nothing to address the underlying cause of the pain. And, left unchecked it can escalate with time and lead to muscle spasms, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs, and even disk degeneration.
In addition, having an excessively rounded upper back also leads to shoulder and neck mobility issues, inability to reach overhead, and pain and damage to the rotator cuff.
Even your breathing will be compromised.
Try this: sit slumped forward and try to raise your arms overhead, They don’t go far do they? Now, try to breathe deeply. You can’t. Because your diaphragm and chest don’t have adequate space to expand you are only able to take shallow breaths using your neck and upper back muscles. With your shoulder and neck muscles forced to do the work of other muscles, they become overworked causing tension and pain (sound familiar?).
And habitual shallow breathing stresses the body, (“danger, danger”) causing a whole host of other issues such as high blood pressure, sleep problems, compromised immunity, and diminished energy levels.
Now sit up straight and take a long deep breath. Notice how your chest expands. Exhale slowly and feel your stress level decrease. Is it any wonder ‘take a deep breath’ is the 1st strategy for calming anxiety?
How does deep breathing improve your energy? Simply put, when you are able to take in more oxygen for your brain and cells you are able to do more, with less fatigue.
And as if pain, lack of mobility, breathing difficulties and low energy aren’t enough, a forward head and rounded posture will also negatively impact your balance throwing your center of gravity forward. This is especially dangerous for older adults who lack the speed and power to correct a misstep leading to falls that can be debilitating or even deadly.
Have I convinced you yet that good posture is imperative for good health both in the short-term AND long- term?
The solution lies in a combination of stretching the muscles that are tight and stretching those that help you to stand up straight in order to bring your body back into alignment and relieve the strain on the muscles and thereby the pain,
A solid resistance training program specifically targeting these muscles is your ticket to enjoying life again.
What are you waiting for? Would you benefit from:
- less back and neck pain
- better sleep
- improved immunity
- lower blood pressure
- less fatigue
- more energy?
Just think, By simply improving your posture you can add energy while subtracting years from your appearance.
By simply improving your posture you can subtract pain and add life to your years.
Don’t let back pain due to poor posture keep you from making the most of your life. Let’s work together on a targeted program that will enable you to stand with your shoulders back and your head up, it will improve your balance, allow you to breathe easier, and eliminate pain caused by stress and strain on the spinal muscles.
And won’t that make your mom proud?