The Posture Series, Part II

Are you sitting at your desk? How is your shoulder position?  Did you just straighten up and pull your head and shoulders into proper positions?  Good!  Now while you are propped up, let's talk posture.

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One of the most common postural faults is a forward head and hunched shoulders.  This positioning is learned through your repetitive resting posture.  This means it can result from hours at the desk hunched over a computer, stress while driving (...road rage anyone?), "blackberry back"(aka iphone back), "readers neck," or improper sleeping posture, just to name a few.  Anytime you are in a relaxed position leaning forward or with your arms forward for an extended period of time, you are teaching your body how to hold itself.  Think back to our hunter gatherer ancestors - there were no couches or chairs to slump in - they were on their feet for the majority of their day.  But since your 9-5 probably doesn't allow for that, you need to be conscientious of your positioning.

Bad Posture & Your Workout

This postural fault will do a couple of things to your performance in the gym.  First, It will decrease your shoulder's range of motion.  This will affect not only overhead movements like your press or jerk, but also your lower body and total body movements.  If you don't believe me, try rounding your shoulders and then getting a pvc pipe in the correct position for a low bar back squat, or achieving a correct starting position for a deadlift. Second, rounded shoulders collapses your chest, restricting your breathing capacity.

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Bad Posture & Daily Life

Maintaining hunched shoulders and a forward head posture is more harmful than just an awkward and less confident appearance.  For every inch your head sits forward from neutral, it can increase the weight of your head on your body by 10lbs because of strain.  This added bodily stress can give you a host of medical issues, such as headaches, TMJ, neck pain, shoulder pain, mid-back pain, low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, fatigue, osteoarthritis, allergies, asthma, ear infections and many more conditions.  Over an extended period of time, this positioning can lead to long term muscle strain, disc herniations and pinched nerves.

Homework

Depending on how long you have been a sloucher, you may need to consult a doctor to help straighten your issues out (pun intended).  But in the meantime, here are some things you can do on your own time to help alleviate the problem:

  • Buy the right pillow - proper neck support will keep your spine in alignment.
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  • Think tall - keep your feet planted in front of you and imagine a string drawing pulling you up from the top of your head.
  • Have a posture friendly office - keep the top third of your monitor at eye level and about 18-24 inches from your face.
  • Use proper eye wear - if you spend a lot of time reading or in front of the computer, use reading glasses instead of bifocals.
  • Research backpacks and chairs - make sure your car seat, chairs and backpacks are ergonomically designed.  If not, you should purchase a back support to keep you in the proper position.
  • Take breaks - after 15-20 minutes at the desk or computer, stand up, walk around, stretch, and move your body.
  • Stretch! - roll your shoulders back, pull your chin in, and check the Mobility WOD for some solid shoulder work.