We are living in a world where sitting has become the norm. We sit for long hours at work, we sit in the car, we sit to eat, and after a busy day, we get home to sit on the couch. While this may seem harmless, it can lead to a host of health problems, particularly back and neck issues. In fact, bad posture is one of the most common complaints people have, and it is a major cause of pain and discomfort.
If you are struggling with a bad posture, there are several things you can do to fix it. Here are four simple but effective ways to improve your posture and alleviate any pain and discomfort.
1. Supine Hamstring Stretch
Most lower back pain is caused by tight hamstrings. When you sit for long hours, your hamstrings become shorter over time, resulting in a flattening of the arch in your lower back. This puts pressure on your sitting bones, causing a posterior tilt of your pelvis and leading to curvature and rounding of your spine. You can alleviate this pain by loosening and elongating your hamstrings regularly.
To do the supine hamstring stretch, lie flat on your back with both legs firmly on the ground. Bring your right knee in towards your chest and secure a yoga strap or small towel around the ball of your right foot. As you lay back on the ground, grab both ends of the towel or strap with your right hand and gently pull to a gentle point of resistance. Next, extend the bent leg straight and upright while keeping the other firmly on the ground. Inhale deeply through your nose and with each exhale, pull gently to your resistance point. Hold for ten deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
2. Side Bend
If you spend most of your day sitting crouched at your desk, your bad posture is likely causing your lateral back muscles to shorten and feel tighter. This can cause your upper torso to merge deeper into your hips, leading to pain and discomfort. To alleviate this, incorporate a side bend into your daily routine.
To do the side bend, stand tall with your feet slightly apart and your arms relaxed by your side. Keep your palms facing down and bring your right arm straight up in line with your shoulder. Turn your palm facing upwards and bring your right arm vertically overhead. As you exhale, bend your upper body to the left and slide your left arm down the leg. Hold the stretch for a count of 30 seconds. Inhale and come back into a neutral position, then repeat on the other side.
3. Thoracic Rotation
If you spend most of your day hunched over a laptop, releasing stiffness in your upper back area can improve your mobility and movement. Engaging in thoracic rotation can create an extension and rotation in the upper spine, releasing any built-up tension.
To do thoracic rotation, lay flat on your back with your knees bent and the palms of your feet on the ground. Turn onto your left side, ensuring your left hip and shoulder are pinned to the ground. Once on your left shoulder, outstretch your left arm in front of you, keeping the palm of your hand facing upwards. Bring your right hand on top of your left and engage in an opening movement of the upper spine, reaching as far back as you can. Make sure you’re only opening and twisting the upper spine. Come out of the position, turn on your back, and repeat on the other side.
4. Chin Tuck
Prolonged use of a smartphone or laptop can cause your head to lean forward, placing excessive stress on the neck. This can lead to neck pain, headaches, and upper back issues. Tucking your chin inwards regularly can do wonders to realign your head in a central position, reducing that excessive stress you created.
To do the chin tuck, become aware of your hunched forward head position. Tuck your chin down and inwards, feeling a lengthening in the back of the neck. Hold the position for a minimum of 10 seconds and repeat whenever you catch yourself hunched over.
Bonus Recommendation: Keep Moving
Sitting for long hours is the new disease. Get up and walk frequently to keep your muscles engaged and tensions at bay. The more you walk, the less your muscles will tighten, and the more you will elongate your back muscles. By adopting a good posture, you’ll also improve your balance in the long run.
Remember, the whole body is interconnected. Just like the hamstrings can impact the lower back, other areas of your neck and back can impact other areas of your body from your head, arms down to your hips. All this can arise simply from neglecting your daily posture. So sit up, tuck that chin in, and remember to walk and do your stretches every so often. You’ll thank yourself down the road.