Have you ever had a pain in your neck?
Not counting your kids, in-laws, coworkers, unruly pets, etc.
I’m talking about that pain that makes your neck ache or causes a humongous knot at the top of your back or between your shoulder blades.
Chances are that in this day and age, not only have you had it before, but you may put up with that pain almost every day. Some attribute the pain and knots to stress. But, likely, the most prevalent cause is poor posture. And let’s be honest; you know that your posture stinks. I bet you started sitting up straighter as soon as you first saw the word ‘posture’.
Well done, your pain is magically gone. Oh, if only. Postural corrections are rarely a quick fix. You’ve kept that poor posture all day, every day. Correcting and especially maintaining proper posture takes work and perseverance.
How often when you’re looking at your phone are you looking straight ahead? Pretty much never. You’re looking down. Having your head leaning forward for extended amounts of time puts a huge strain on your neck. Soft-tissues at the back of your neck become overstretched and weak, while the ones at the front become short and weak. (Because gravity is the only thing that’s strong in this scenario).
Y’all…our heads are heavy. And the neck was designed in such a way as to have it balance on top, not out in front like a tomato on a tomato plant with no cage. (You gardeners should get that one).
As for that upper body posture…ever seen The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Rounded shoulders and a rounded upper back.
These are postural positions that we tend to be in for extended lengths of time, so the body just figured it should stop fighting change and adjust to the new normal. Working at a desk with the arms extended in front, driving with our hands on the wheel in front of us, washing dishes, and folding laundry. Many tasks we perform with our hands are not only repetitive but stationary as well.
We get into that position and stay there for a while. The muscles of the back aren’t engaged actively in the task, so we let them take a break, instead of allowing them to act as the stabilizing muscles that they are.
Just like in the neck, the soft-tissue of the back becomes overstretched and weak. So overstretched that the muscles try to prevent it by ‘knotting up’ and fighting against the pull of gravity. (It’s like our bodies know what’s good for them, even when we don’t. Weird…).
Conversely, the chest muscles and shoulder flexors become extremely tight, sometimes so much so that it’s nearly impossible to draw the shoulders back to their proper place. And if you look around, you’ll notice that almost all of us are in the same boat. Even I can only think of one person I know who I would say has proper posture. (Y’all, she’s got Downton Abbey level good posture).
“So, what now?” you say.
I’m so glad you asked.
Like many step-wise progressions, Step 1 is realizing you have a problem and deciding you are tired of living with chronic pain. (Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that).
Step 2: Get the soft-tissues released. You can’t strengthen properly if the tissues can’t move optimally to begin with.
I can help you at this point. You’ve already made it this far through my post, so I’m assuming you think I’m somewhat trustworthy and knowledgeable. Go click the ‘Book Now’ button and set up an appointment once you’ve finished reading. (‘Cause I worked hard on this. You better finish).
Step 3: Re-educate those muscles.
They haven’t worked properly in a while and need a reminder of what to do. These are simple exercises focused more on endurance than strength.
Step 4: Practice maintaining proper posture.
And I do mean practice. It’s something you will have to do repeatedly. I don’t tell clients to simply start having better posture. Those are vague instructions and not goal-based. I tell them that the next time they notice themselves having poor posture (oh my gosh, I’m slumping so much right now!), start the clock. Correct the posture and count to 30. Every time you notice poor posture, correct it and hold it for at least 30 seconds.
With consistent practice, your posture will improve and maintaining correct form will eventually start feeling less like work and more normal. And I bet you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel because of it.