Neck Pain and Posture
Good posture is typically seen as having nice vertical alignment. In other words, a person looks like they’re carrying their head directly over their body. Instead, we often see the head in front of the body. Sometimes, we call this slouching!
Technically speaking, there is a bone right behind the bottom of the ear on the skull that should be found over the middle of the shoulder joint. Following that positioning downward, the hips would then be found right underneath. Non-technically speaking, this is akin to sitting and standing tall.
In this position, the muscles on the back of the neck can most easily keep things balanced. The more the head moves forward, the harder those muscles have to work to do the same job. That is often felt as a stiff, sore neck and can even lead to tight shoulders and headaches.
Sitting at a computer or using a smartphone/tablet for long periods of time can lead to an imbalance in the muscles of the neck, upper back, and chest. This pattern creates tightness in the neck, upper back, and chest, while also creating a weakening of the muscles in the front of the neck and mid to lower-upper back.
This is the classic forward head posture and rounded shoulders/upper back that we often want to avoid due to how it looks, but also how it can feel and the health problems in can create.
There are exercises that can help with these changes. An awareness of one’s posture and how devices are held or engaged when being used is also valuable. While there are braces and supports that exist to encourage better posture, especially with keeping the shoulders back, there are limitations to their benefit and caution should be taken that they are being used properly.
This habit or pattern of forward head posture can lead to limitations in joint function for the neck and upper back. Those limitations can interfere with any benefits from the exercises that or the effort into having better posture awareness. At this point, those stuck or restricted joints should be addressed with spinal manipulation so that the exercises and posture habits can have a better effect.
Before beginning any exercise program, especially for a health related problem or complaint, it’s always best to consult a qualified healthcare provider. For your reference, here are some exercises designed to help with the posture changes as discussed in this article:
• Perform a standard push-up (from knees or toes) and when in the “up” position, push further toward the ceiling (feel your shoulder blades spread further apart).
• Lie prone on a bench and raise your arms overhead to form a “Y”; follow with a “T” by lowering the arms to horizontal or 90°; move to a “W” (bend elbows 90° and lower arms to 45°); follow with an “L” (place arms at your sides keeping elbows bent at 90°, rotate outwards the forearms as far as possible). Squeeze your shoulder blades together, DON’T shrug the shoulders, HOLD each position for five to ten seconds and repeat the series two to three times.
• Tuck your chin inward and nod; add some resistance—using your thumb/index grasping the chin—resist in BOTH directions (down and up nods). As a posture re-trainer, keep your chin-tucked during the day.
• Lie on your side, elbow bend 90°; use a hand weight and raise it slowly toward the ceiling and lower it back down (five to ten slow reps); repeat on the other side.
• Stand in a doorway and hook your elbow on (or grasp with your hand) the door jamb; slowly turn your body away from the door jamb until you feel a strong stretch in your chest muscles. Start low and move your elbow/hand higher and repeat; continue upwards until its overhead. Repeat several times on each side.
• Look down and side bend RIGHT; reach over with your RIGHT hand and gently pull the head to a firm endpoint; reach with the LEFT hand toward the floor.
• Look down, side bend, and rotate your head RIGHT; reach over with your RIGHT hand and gently pull the head to a firm endpoint; reach with the LEFT hand toward the floor. REPEAT on opposite side. Hold five to ten seconds and repeat two to three times.