Good posture isn’t just for runway models. We all benefit from sitting, standing, even lying in an optimal position. It may make you wonder, where does the bad habit of bad posture begin? Let’s take a look at some of the causes of bad posture and learn more about a test and exercise that can help you re-train yourself to sit and stand properly. Your neck and back will thank you!
You can blame mom and dad – posture is often inherited. Still, there may be social and environmental causes at play as well. One of the common causes of bad posture is known as forward head carriage. It’s just like it sounds – the head sits forward on the shoulders, and that leads to strain on both the back of the neck and the upper back. If we were to look at you standing sideways, ideally, we’d want to see that the opening of your ear lines up with your shoulder, your hip and your ankle.
Studies have shown that even an inch of forward head carriage can increase neck and upper back muscle strain by ten pounds. And the farther forward your head is, the more strain and weight.
So what can be done to relieve that unnecessary weight and strain? Improve your posture! Let’s describe good posture as a body position that puts the least amount of strain and weight on the ligaments and muscles that hold our bodies together.
In that case, there are a couple of best practices and exercises that can help us reach that state:
- First, be aware that a sedentary lifestyle is problematic. When you move regularly, you can reduce degeneration rates that are an inevitable part of growing older. Maintaining a normal BMI is important.
- Second, try the chin-tuck test. Begin by pulling your chin inward (your goal is a double chin!). You can check that you’re pulling in far enough simply by speaking. Your voice will sound noticeably different. Then, slowly release the tuck until your voice returns to normal. As soon as it does, pause your head movement. This is the ideal position for your head, and you should strive to maintain it. You may have to remind yourself to keep it tucked, but it will become more natural the more you do it.
- Third, try this exercise to strengthen flexor muscles deep in the neck. You’ll follow the same steps above for the chin-tuck test, but use your hand or a towel against the back of your neck to provide some resistance. As you tuck your chin, press the back of your neck into your hand or the towel (holding it with two hands in front) and hold for a count of five. Slowly release, then repeat. Try to complete this exercise five or ten times at least daily.
A posture analysis, gait analysis and spinal core balance test may also be useful. All three will affect pain, degeneration and sport performance. An analysis can help you figure out a treatment that may reduce fatigue on joints muscles and ligaments for a notable improvement.
Dr. McSweeney is happy to conduct these kinds of analyses and make recommendations if you’re worried that posture, gait or spinal core balance may be the culprits behind your ongoing back and neck pain. Schedule your appointment today.