Posture - a word that inspires action with its mere utterance. Did you know that correcting posture requires skill?
Most people think that good posture is simply a matter of sitting up straight and pulling their shoulders back when they remember to do so. Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
Posture related back pain is often caused by the strength-to-flexibility ratio between the opposing muscle groups - all over your body - that hold you upright. Add to this the fact that in every area of the spine unique anatomical mechanisms are at work, and you may agree with me that achieving good posture requires technique.
Below are the basics on posture. The ideas presented here may help you correct yours with exercise and training.
Kyphosis is a postural issue in which your upper back rounds excessively. It is often a result of day in - day out habits such as sitting at the computer for 8 hours at a time.
People with kyphosis tend to have another problem called forward head posture. When the upper back rounds, it naturally takes the head forward of the shoulders. (In the correct position, ears are aligned with the shoulders.) To be able to see what's in front you, you lift your head so that your eyes meet the horizon. It's a reflexive action. We all do it (if we have kyphosis, that is). The result may be tight and weak neck muscles, and pain.
If this sounds like something you want to fix (or nip in the bud) try a neck exercise for forward head posture.
When muscles become tight, weak and/or overstretched, they lose their ability to work with other muscles to support your upper back posture.
When you slump for too long, the pec muscles at the front of your chest get really tight - this is due to rounding your spine. At the same time, upper back muscles become overstretched. Posture training that works the rhomboid muscles in back and stretches the pec groups in front may help you deal with this. A simple action like squeezing your shoulder blades together may be the best upper back posture exercise for such a dilemma.
Related: Massage Techniques and Stretches
Most people don't readily notice this, but when you have posture issues, the ribcage tends to collapse onto the top of the pelvis. Or at least it comes close. This collapse, which may be due to weakness in the abdominal, back, flank and rib muscles, often creates some very tight trunk muscles. (Yes, muscles can be tight and weak at the same time.)
There's no substitute for plain 'ole exercise when targeting collapsed posture. Work on lifting the ribs, and your back strain may well disappear. A very effective way to target the muscles involved is to do pelvis and ribcage posture training.
Spinal curves in the low back, thoracic area and neck help your body support weight, move and balance.
The spine and pelvis are closely related. In fact, the bottom end of the spine (the sacrum) is wedged between the 2 halves of the pelvis in back. When your pelvis moves, your spine moves, too. Finding your low back curve and exploring the way it responds when you move your pelvis is key to effective posture training for this area. Try a posture exercise for the pelvis and low back curve.
Related: Core Support
Integrating is the final step in this posture exercise series.
As I mentioned in the beginning, each area of the spine works a little differently relative to the others. This is based on anatomical design. When you put all the lessons together, you turn basic movements such as spinal flexion and spinal extension into posture training. In other words, now that you know how all the pieces work, you have the foundation to move your spine – and pelvis – as one unit. This may be a good activity for a mini-break at work.
If you’re interested in really mastering the art of whole body posture training, you may need some detailed instructions on spinal flexion and spinal extension.