Didn’t listen when your mom nagged you to sit or stand up straight? You should have. If you’re a serial sloucher, you can probably trace your neck and shoulder pain right back to your posture. Using a tablet, laptop, and smartphone, which more and more people are using instead of a desktop setup, also contributes to poor posture. It’s not the use of technology that’s the problem as much as it’s the prolonged sitting and positioning while using devices that can lead to problems. One study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that 70% of people working from home complained about musculoskeletal issues. But you can take some steps to fix poor posture and help relieve pain.
Medically speaking, posture refers to the way you position your body when lying down, sitting or standing. Good posture, as it relates to the neck, is commonly considered when the ears are positioned directly above the shoulders with the chest open and the shoulders back. In this neutral position, also called normal head posture, stress on the neck is minimized because the head’s weight is naturally balanced on the cervical spine. Forward head posture occurs when the neck slants forward, placing the head further in front of the shoulders rather than directly above.
Poor posture upsets the balance your spine needs for optimal performance and health. The human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds. And the joints and muscles in your neck and shoulders have the job of supporting this weight. With every inch you bend your neck forward, there is an increase of 10 pounds of pressure on the neck structures supporting your head. This can add up quickly and cause neck pain, hunched shoulders, and headaches.
The first sign that you have a problem with your posture is pain. Neck pain related to poor posture typically begins with muscle aches and pains in the neck, upper back and shoulders. Poor posture is often the cause of tension headaches as well as neck stiffness that may be worse at the end of a long day.
The good news is that you can easily treat your pain and improve your posture. Rounded or hunched shoulders and a bent neck mean, in most cases, that your neck, back, and chest muscles are tight. By stretching and being conscious of your position, you can loosen those muscles and improve your posture. If you are uncomfortable or achy while working or using digital media, then you are doing something wrong.
Tips for better posture include standing up straight, holding your chest high and keeping your shoulders back. Keeping your head over your shoulders with your chin parallel to the floor and tucked slightly back promotes the structural support your neck needs when you’re sitting or standing. A strong core is a key component of good posture. Build your core strength and stretch.
Getting up every 15 to 30 minutes to stretch, walk, or stand will help your body break up the effects of sitting and tiring your muscles, which makes poor posture more likely. While you may start your workday sitting straight and following all the rules of good ergonomics, chances are that as your eyes get tired toward the end of the day, you’ll end up hunched forward. One of the best ways to ward off musculoskeletal issues is to fit as much physical activity into your day as possible, or at least before or after a long day sitting at your computer.
Rolling your shoulders backward can correct them from caving forward. If your head and neck are stooped forward or down, look up and back while holding that stretch for 10 seconds. If your spine is bent forward, stand up and do lumbar extensions. Opposite movements can also help you relieve muscle tension and tightness.
Use that device to help. Download posture apps and ones that provide strength exercises, as well as stretches for the neck, back, shoulder and spine flexibility. Some apps will remind you to take breaks throughout the workday and stand up, stretch or walk around.
While it sounds simple, good posture can be a hard habit to maintain. Every time you practice better posture, you are teaching your body to learn how to stand up straight. Repetition will help your body get away from slouching. Take steps to improve your posture now, you’ll be glad you did later.
If you think bad posture is causing your neck pain, an orthopedist can help you with additional tips or therapies to ease your symptoms. West Tennessee Healthcare can help you find an orthopedist close to you, to find a provider click here.