Posture is one of the biggest contributing factors to neck and back pain. In our current culture, so many people spend the majority of their day sitting — either in front of a computer or staring down at a phone screen. This position strains the muscles in the neck and back — it can even change the shape of your spine.
These common activities cause your head to fall forward in front of your upper back, shoulders to roll forward, and hips to slump backward. When your head falls forward, it increases the weight your spine has to support. The further your head is from alignment, the more weight it has to bear — from 10 – 14 pounds at optimal alignment pounds to up to 60 pounds.
This increased weight on the spine and surrounding muscles can contribute to straightening of the cervical curve in the neck, which puts more pressure on the surrounding nerves and soft tissue. It also causes weak muscles in the front of the neck, and scapula area, and overactive (tight) muscles in the back of the neck and front of the shoulders. In addition to tension and pain, headaches are common in people with forward head posture.
How to Improve Your Posture
There are several options to help correct posture, therefore decreasing pain and tension:
- Take frequent breaks when sitting at the computer — once every hour is recommended.
- Look down at your phone with your eyes, instead of your neck.
- Work on stretching the front of your pectoral muscles, and strengthen your mid-back. I have included a few exercises to work on daily below.
- Take a look at your desk setup. Proper height of your chair aligns your knees and hips at a 90-degree angle, so your head can look straight forward at the screen. A foot stool can prop up your feet if needed. Your arms shouldn’t reach forward to the keyboard, your upper arms should fall alongside your body and your elbows should stay at a 90-degree angle. Your wrists should stay straight — avoid bending them up or letting them fall down. Check out this article for tips and visuals.
- Try a posture device to increase awareness of your current posture. These can be in the form of straps, braces, clothing, and other restrictive gadgets.
- Get adjusted!!