How’s your posture? Are you currently reading this post with your shoulders hunched forward and your shoulder blades winging out? Do you feel like your ears are aligned way in front of your shoulders and your head is protruding forward? Did
you know that bad posture and ‘text neck’ is becoming more and more of an epidemic in our society? Good news for you is that you are being proactive and educating yourself on how to correct your bad posture and improve your overall well-being! In this post you will learn how to incorporate three key components to correct your posture and minimize headaches, neck and back pain.
Did you know that the average human head weighs about 10-12 lbs? To put that into perspective - that is like carrying around a large bottle of laundry detergent all the time. Fortunately, your body (and and the muscles in your neck and shoulders) are designed specifically to support this weight... when you are holding your head in proper posture. What your neck and shoulders are not designed to do is support anything heavier than about 10-12 lbs for any extended period of time, which is exactly what many of us end up doing every time we read through our text messages or our favorite social media feeds.
To put this information into perspective, when you are supporting your head at a:
15˚ angle: it's the equivalent of holding a two-year old child on your neck and shoulders.
45˚ angle: it's the equivalent of supporting a large bag of dog food with those small neck muscles.
60˚ angle: it's the equivalent of balancing 8 gallons of water.
No wonder your neck is sore and you get headaches all the time - that's a lot of weight to be carrying around!
So, what can you do now to help relieve your chronic pain and discomfort? Proper posture, proper ergonomics and strength training.
1. "Ten-hut!" - Reprogramming yourself to maintain proper posture throughout the day is one of the simplest solutions to help relieve chronic neck and back pain. The hardest thing about this is to remember to do it.
Roll your shoulders back and tuck in your "wings" (shoulder blades).
Pull your belly button towards the center of your body - this helps promote a strong core to support your entire body.
Stand with your feet about hip distance apart. You should distribute your weight evenly onto both legs.
Sit in your chair with both of your feet flat on the ground and your knees are at the same level as your hips (90˚ angle). If this is not possible - get a foot rest to elevate your knees to hip level.
Sit back into your chair back. If you do not feel any lower back support - put a small pillow or rolled up towel between your lower back and the chair to create that lumbar support your spine needs.
Just like when your are standing - your shoulder should be back and your shoulder blades are tucked in.
Position your head so that it feels like you are extending the the top up towards the ceiling and your chin is slightly tucked under. Your ears should feel like they are lined up with your shoulders.
2. Ergonomics 101 - A lot of us find ourselves in this sort of position for several hours throughout the day. Even if your job does't require you to be sitting in front of a computer all day long - this is still good to keep in mind for other activities where you are in a similar position (example: driving).
Cellphone/Tablet: Raise your phone so that the screen is at eye level.
Computers/Laptops: Make sure the top line of whatever you are reading on your screen is right at eye level or slightly below. You should be able to read your entire screen by just moving your eyes - not your head or neck.
3. Strength Training - If you have been feeling pain and soreness in your upper back and neck for awhile - a great thing you can do to help relieve that pain is to start a strength training program - especially one that targets your upper back and neck. This will not only strengthen the muscles - but will help you maintain proper posture without feeling fatigued. There are dozens of exercises that can target your shoulders and neck - here are a few suggestions to get you started**:
**Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have never participated in an exercise program or it's been a very long time since you have participated in any significant exercise routine.
Try to do each exercise for 3 sets and 8-12 reps consistently.
Aim to complete these exercises consistently 2-3 times per week (on non-consecutive days).
So, that is 3 ways to help relieve shoulder and neck pain. One last piece of advice: start with one suggestion, and when you have gotten accustomed to your new routine, move on to the next suggestion. Like with anything thats worth improving - take it one step at a time and try
not to accomplish everything all at once, you'll burn yourself out that way. Remember - your wellness journey is a marathon - not a sprint, so don't exhaust yourself too quickly. Every small victory is a long-term win for your overall well-being and happiness.