Not many words make people switch their seats like the word posture does. You have probably straightened up while reading. What have you done? How are you sitting now
When most people think of good posture, they think of sitting straight and standing up with their shoulders pulled back. Trying to hold this position can be exhausting. Many people give up and fall into the bent position encouraged by gravity and our screens. Even those who manage to maintain good posture can experience tension and discomfort. So what's the point?
The downside of the urge to crouch or slouch
While trying to maintain good posture can cause discomfort, it is better than the alternative. Sitting or standing for long periods without actively activating our muscles for support puts additional strain on the joints and ligaments of the spine. These structures are not designed to be loaded for extended periods of time in a flexed position, and the extra load can cause stiffness and pain.
Our spine isn't the only thing that suffers when we contract. When the upper back stiffens, our chest and lungs are restricted from expanding. This restriction limits the supply of oxygen and increases the work of breathing, which can trigger our stress response and impair cognition.
When your upper back curves and your head protrudes above your body, tension can develop in the muscles that cling to your jaw and face. This tension can make the movement of your jaw painful or restricted, leading to a headache.
Many other hormonal and behavioral effects are associated with poor posture, some of which will be discussed in this popular TED talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy. But maintaining good posture is easier said than done.
Avoid the pitfalls of maintaining good posture
Many people develop imbalances when trying to achieve and maintain good posture. Imbalances occur when parts of your body that generally work together become unable to work together due to a mismatch in strength or mobility.
Imbalances can lead to tension and discomfort and cause dysfunction in other parts of the body.
This danger comes from how most people think about good posture. A common misconception is having good posture; You need to get into a straight position and hold it there while sitting or standing.
When you ask your body to do a task like standing up or pulling your shoulders back without telling it how to do it, the body is using the muscles that you use the most.
This reliance on strong muscles leads to prolonged use of muscles that are already strong while neglecting weaker groups. Over time, stronger muscles get stronger and tighter, while weaker muscles atrophy.
For exampleIf you have back pain while sitting upright, it may be because your stronger lower back muscles are working too hard trying to balance out your weaker lower abs and pelvic muscles.
The most common imbalance
Your lower back and pelvic muscles are the most common spots for imbalance. The muscles that arch your lower back are often overused in many activities, including prolonged sitting and standing, exercising, and carrying.
Conversely, the muscles in your lower abdomen and pelvis are usually not used enough. This neglect is due in part to the fact that many of us experience stiffness and curvature in the upper back, and our bodies make up for this by protruding over the lower back when we ask it to sit up straight or stand up. The result is an exaggeration of our natural spine curves.
When the lower back is arched over, the pelvis tilts forward, reducing activation of the lower abdominal and gluteus muscles. If this box is not checked, it can cause dysfunction throughout the body.
Rethink good posture
Instead of viewing posture as a position, think of it as the balance of strength and flexibility across your body's muscles and joints. Use your body in a way that promotes musculoskeletal balance rather than trying to achieve good posture by sitting or standing upright.
A great way to improve posture is to get more exercise. Set reminders to move regularly by incorporating methods to incorporate more into your day, such as
- Vary your working position with an adjustable desk.
- Use the toilet on another floor so you can go up the stairs.
- Vary the type of manual work you do.
A variety of movements mixes up your body's stress pattern and reduces imbalances.
However, exercise without conscious effort is usually not enough to correct significant imbalances.
Unless we do a new type of movement or consciously activate weak muscles and relax strong onesThe body will still use the muscles it is most familiar with. There may still be discomfort or tension, even after taking a break to move.
Actively improve posture
Consciously challenging your weaker muscles and relaxing your overactive muscles is the best way to restore balance. However, this is easier said than done.
Overactive muscles are difficult to relax and underactive muscles are difficult to feel and use.
The rest of this post discusses techniques you can use to restore balance while:
- Performing functional tasks such as manual labor and practice
Improve lower back posture
The first step in achieving balance between the muscles of your lower spine and abdomen is to move the area over its entire range of motion, rather than constraining it to an arched or hanging position. You can do this with an exercise called a pelvic tilt.
If you have limited control over your lumbar spine and pelvis, tilting the pelvis may be difficult at first.
If so, download the free Phyx app to access the introductory exercises that will prepare you for tilting the pool. These exercises are fundamental and we recommend them for people of all skill levels.
To do the pelvic tilt:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the ground. Place your hands around your hips so you can use your index finger to feel the bony teeth on the front of your hips. Wrap your thumb around and feel the bone on the back of the pelvis. Imagine you have a large bowl of water in your hands.
- Tilt the pelvis forward as far as you can, as if pouring water from the front of the bowl. Your lower back will arch and you will roll forward onto your crotch. Tilting forward activates the muscles of the lower back while reducing stress on the joints and ligaments. If held for a long time, the tilted forward position leads to overactivity of the muscles of the lower back and the front of the hips. The muscles of the lower abdomen and pelvis are mechanically disadvantaged, which leads to an imbalance.
- After pushing the bowl forward Roll back as far as you can (pour water from the back of the bowl) while preventing your chest and upper back from snagging. When your pelvis tilts back, you activate the lower abdominal muscles.
- A useful tip Imagine using the area under your belly button to close your pants. When you tilt back and pull up, the lower back is stretched and the muscles of the lower abdomen and pelvic floor are activated.
- Sit in this tilted back position relieves the muscles of the lower back, but can strain the joints of the spine if held for a long period of time.
- Instead of arching or slouchingTry to keep your back and pelvis in the middle of the two positions. With a neutral pelvis, the load is distributed across the front and back of the torso. The spine, abdominal and back muscles all take some of the load.
Repeat the pelvic incline five times to activate and stretch both sides of the trunk and then finish in a neutral position. You can find the neutral by placing your water bowl in a level position so that the pieces of bone on the front and back of the pelvis are evenly high.
Another way to tell is by looking at the waistband of your clothes. In a neutral position, the waistband is usually parallel to the floor rather than at an angle.
You can do the pelvic tilt while sitting, standing or exercising. It can serve as a preventative measure or as a technique to relieve back or hip pain. This is one of the best ways to assess and improve the most common area of posture imbalance.
If you have an existing back injury, you may experience pain when tilting your pelvis. This pain is normal. Reduce the range of motion until the movement is no longer painful, then gradually build it up again.
Or imagine a string pulling the top of your head towards the ceiling and making you as tall as possible as you do the tilt. This lifting helps relieve pressure on the spine and relieve pain.
Another effect you may experience is the feeling of hunched over when you tilt your pelvis backwards. This feeling is also known and likely means that your upper back has stiffened into a rounded position. This stiffness may be the reason your lower back arched excessively in the first place: to keep your upper back upright.
Improve upper back posture
After you begin to improve your control over the Lumbopelvic region, You can move on to the second most common region of imbalance: the upper back and neck.
These areas can now feel rounded because the lumbopelvic region is in a neutral position. They need to improve their ability to arch if we are to promote musculoskeletal balance.
You can stretch your upper back, also known as the thoracic spine, over the back of a low-back chair.
- Pinch your fingers behind your head, squeeze your shoulder blades, and lean back so that the top of the backrest is pressing into your back.
- To emphasize the extension of your upper back, limit the arching of your lower back by keeping your lower abs in motion.
- Hold this extended position for about fifteen seconds and feel a stretch in your chest and upper back.
Stretching the muscles and joints of the upper torso with the chest extension is an excellent way to reduce overactivity. But we still need to strengthen our underactive muscles.
The muscles between and under the shoulder blades are often underused, and activating them can help relieve pain in the upper back, neck, and shoulder.
- With your pelvis in a neutral position, pull your chin back as if trying to get as big as possible.
- Then squeeze your shoulder blades down and back together.
- The body often compensates for the restricted movement of the shoulder blades by arching the lower back. So make sure to keep the pelvis neutral.
- The upper shoulders also try to balance this out during this movement. So remember to push your shoulders down and back, not up and back. Do the pressure ten times to activate the muscles of the upper back.
There may not be much movement in the beginning and it may be difficult to feel the muscles working. Alternatives to this exercise are available in the free Phyx app.
It's all about balance
Good posture has traditionally been viewed as standing upright and sitting with hunched shoulders. This is difficult to maintain for many people, and those who maintain it do it by frequently overusing their strong muscles.
To improve your strength, flexibility, and risk of injury, think of posture as a balance between different muscles and joints in the body.
Improve your posture by bringing more exercise into your everyday life and consciously developing a balance between overused and underused muscles.
When done regularly and purposefully, the pelvic incline, chest lengthening, and shoulder retracting exercises will help you achieve and maintain balance without strain and discomfort, making good posture second nature.
Initially, these movements can be made difficult by stiffness in adjacent body parts. Exercises to fix this problem can be found in the free Phyx app.