As a child or teenager it was probably really common to here Mum telling you all the time to “stand up tall” and “put your shoulders back”. As annoying as this might have been at the time she was definitely on to something..posture is important! Let me tell you why..
Posture is not just about the shoulders and back, it includes all of your body literally from your big toe to your head. This means it can be a large contributor to a range of musculoskeletal conditions that we see every week including neck pain, back pain, shoulder impingement, headaches, hip pain, foot pain and even issues at the wrist and elbow such as tennis elbow!
Prolonged or regular episodes of sitting have a big impact on posture and unfortunately our modern-day lives involve a lot of it! Think back to our ‘hunter-gatherer’ days where we would rarely if ever be sitting, and if we did it was usually in a position such as the deep squat/baby squat. Thanks to the invention of furniture (chairs and couches) and technology as well as the amount of sitting and driving a lot of us are required to do for work, it all adds up! Aside from the obvious tip of reducing the amount of sitting you do it is, to an extent, a part of our day-to-day lives and so there are super quick and easy exercises you can do to break up this pattern.
It is super important to note that there is no perfect posture for everyone! And there are some postural conditions that require specific exercises and things you might nede to know. If you have any concerns it is always better to chat to one of us first to help get you started. However for the most common postural issues we see these are a good place to start:
1) Pec Stretch– for shoulders that are dropped or tilted forwards it can be due to tight chest muscles so first stretch out these. Use a doorway to rest your arm up, gently lean forwards and rotate away from your arm until you feel the stretch across your chest.
2) Thoracic Extension and Rotation – Stiffness through the mid-back is very common and may restrict you from being able to get yourself into a better position
3) Deep Neck Flexor Exercises or “Chin Tucks”– can be tricky to get the hang of so starting in lying down or up against a wall can be helpful. Once you are better at it then you can incorporate this into your functional tasks. It is important to remember that you are just tucking in your chin, not bringing it down towards your chest. You should feel as though you are gently lifting the base of your skull away from the rest of your spine.
4) External Rotation at the Shoulders– focussing on setting the shoulderblades “down and back” and “opening up” through the chest and shoulders will get you feeling like you are 5cm taller!
5) Strengthening of the Posterior Chain– exercises that help to strengthen the muscles that help to support you in an upright position, in this example the muscle around the shoulderblade and the gluteals (buttocks). Rowing or pulling exercises are great for this. A personal favourite is to also add a squat to this as it works on your upper and lower body at the same time, winning! An advantage of doing this with palms facing upward is that you are also opening up through the chest and shoulders.
6) Hip and Lower Limb Strengthening – specifically for standing posture think of your legs as the base that your trunk positions itself upon. The stronger you are through the hips and legs the better supported the rest of your body is! There are many exercises that can help achieve this such as squats and split squats.