Over the years we've advanced technology to the point where you could have a stranger deliver coffee and a pack of gum from the gas station down the road, while you sit reclined in a lazy-boy watching your nephew's hockey game via Skype. Makes being a shut-in seem glamorous, right? There are many positives to the “instant era”, however, we lose some things along the way if we're not careful. With new technology comes new movement patterns, and with new movement patterns comes imbalanced muscles and irritated joints. 20 years ago there weren’t cell phones or iPads, and people were spending a lot less money to get out of pain. Here's 4 cheaper ways to nix pain and fix your posture.
How do you think this affects your neck, back, arms, and legs? Between driving to work, sitting in class, hunching over a desk in a cubicle, and sinking into a couch after a long day, we're in what's called an "anterior dominant" position for majority of our day.
That means we're all about moving everything forward (and not in a good way).
It’s as if we never figured out how to get out of the fetal position! No wonder low back pain and tension headaches are some of the leading reasons people visit their doctors.
So, what can we do about this? Like I said, with new technology comes new movement patterns – and with new movement patterns comes new responsibility to adapt and keep ourselves healthy. We can sit back and wait for chronic pain to set in (not ideal) or we can be proactive and DO SOMETHING about it. Here's 4 ways to fix your posture and nix pain:
The hip hinge is something that's been lost over the years thanks to countless hours sitting. We often ignore our gluts! How dare we, because that butt is the largest most powerful muscle group we have. Aren't you always hearing, “Lift with your legs, not your back”? Lift with your legs should really be switched to lift with your butt. Hinge forward at your hips, bend your knees, and keep a nice neutral (not rounded or hunched!) spine. If you're just bending your knees and ignoring your hips, you're probably compromising your spinal discs and muscles. Your gluts are part of something called the posterior chain. The posterior chain is an awesome system that needs some attention! Without it, extra work gets dished to your spine and that's when pain creeps in.
Hinge/bend forward from a standing position and try to touch your toes. If you can't, it's not because of “tight hamstrings.” More often than not it's caused by tension sent from your brain because it feels unsafe or unstable!
Put your spine in neutral, and use your butt muscles when you need to pick something up off the floor. Practice hinging at your hips while keeping a neutral spine. Hold your hinge for 30 seconds at a time. Are you a pro? Then keep this same posture while you deadlift LIGHT weight at the gym.
The upper part of your back (thoracic spine) also loses motion in this hunchback, tech savvy society. Do you sit at work, drive for more than 2 hours a day, and constantly work in front of your computer? You might experience something called upper cross syndrome. That means tight chest muscles and weak back muscles, and that's what turns you into a hunchback! Bonus: you might also have shoulder pain. The longer this rounded upper back posture is ignored the longer it takes to reverse it.
Get on all fours on the floor. Gently go through the cat and cow yoga poses, moving only your upper back (no neck or low back). See here for help. Take 8-10 seconds in "cat" and another 8-10 seconds to fully get into "cow." After that, try threading the needle to get some good gentle rotation.
A BIG tech induced no-no is anterior head carriage. This means your head hangs out a couple inches in front of the rest of your body. Do you see people walking around like this? Humor me, and people watch for 5 minutes. ONLY look for this "anterior head" and you'll be amazed how many people have it. It's becoming more and more common and causes headaches, and neck pain. It's important to strengthen the deep neck muscle to avoid this.
While lying on your back, place your fingers on your chin and push down. This will no only give you a very attractive double chiin, but helps stretch the back of your neck. You'll also feel a big of "crowding" in the front of your neck. In this lovely double chin position, lift your head and neck off the ground only an inch. Don't lose your chin tuck! Hold this position for 15 seconds, then rest and repeat 5 times. Stop if your pain gets worse, you may have something else going on.
The diaphragm is a big muscle at the bottom of your rib cage that helps you breathe. It also acts as the ‘lid’ for your abdomen. When you use your diaphragm it helps stabilize your core, and protects your low back. About 75% of the patients I see breathe with their chest and shoulders, not their diaphragm. Breathing like this overtime weakens your core, which you really need to be strong! Our best example of good breathing? Little kids. Their instincts tell them to belly breathe, so we must be doing something along the way (cough, desk jobs, cough, smartphones) to mess it up.
Breathe normally. Does your belly rise and fall? If it doesn't you're probably using your shoulders to breathe. Belly is better!
Lie on the floor with your knees bent. Put one hand on your chest, and one hand on your belly button. Breathe through your belly button and make sure only that hand is rising and falling. Your chest should stay still. Repeat this several times, and add a yoga block for a little resistance. You might fall asleep, but that's ok. You deserve a nap in good posture! Keep these good breathing skills going while you walk, run, lift weights, and bike.
Spending time on these goofy exercises now, will surely help you stay out of pain longer. I hope you enjoyed these 4 tips to fix our tech-savvy posture. You can find me over at Flux Strength for more ways to move well. See you soon!
Dr. Matt Wiest is a chiropractor at Finish Line Wellness in Savage, Minnesota. He is the founder of Flux Strength where he dives even further into moving well.