‘’Sit up straight’’ This phrase is starting to be heard more and more on a daily basis.
In today’s technology-driven world, poor posture affects many people and although being aware of it, they do not take into account the possible problems poor posture can cause, thus not doing anything to fix it.
So, what problems can poor posture cause?
- Bones and joints can be aligned incorrectly, increasing the wear on joint surfaces.
- Back pain.
- Muscular imbalances.
- Muscular pain.
- Reduced muscular flexibility and joint range of motion.
- Reduced balance.
The most common type of abnormal posture is known as the Upper Crossed Syndrome, which is like the abnormal posture commonly known as ‘slouching’. It is caused by deformity of the neck, back and pectoral muscles. It can be spotted easily, as individuals will show a hunched over posture. This is where the pectorals (pectoralis minor and major) become overactive and tighten, and the back muscles (rhomboids, serratus anterior) lengthen and become weaker, thus causing the shoulders to roll forwards. With this posture, it can also be seen that the head usually moves forwards. This causes weak muscles in the front of the neck (cervical flexor muscles), and overactive muscles at the back of the neck and shoulders (upper trapezius, levator scapulae). This muscular deformity can put stress on surrounding muscles, tendons, bones and joints, which can lead to;
- neck pain
- upper back pain
- difficulty sitting
- numbness or tingling type pain in shoulders
This type of abnormal posture is usually caused by prolonged sitting, or standing with the head forward, in activities such as using the computer or laptop, driving, reading or using the mobile phone.
A good way to treat the tightness and overactive muscles, is Sports Massage and Trigger Point Therapy. Trigger point therapy works by applying pressure on a tender point of a muscle, also known as a knot, which cuts out the flow of blood to the area for a short period of time. Muscles require blood flow to work, therefore if that is cut out, the muscle cannot work and relaxes. Sports massage can also help to relax the muscle and remove tension. The weakened and lengthened muscles can be sorted by some simple range of motion and strengthening exercises. To prevent from further injury, activities moving the head forwards for a prolonged period of time should be avoided or reduced.
Is there anything I can do at home/work to help?
Yes! It is important to stretch the muscles that have tightened up and shortened, as well as strengthening the weak, lengthened muscles. Doing this will help to return the ‘normal’ alignment of the head and shoulders. Here is an example of a stretch to do at home:
- Door Frame Stretch:
- Stand in the doorway, with your elbow bent at 90 degrees.
- Place the elbow and forearm on the doorframe, ensure the tricep is parallel to the floor.
- Step forwards and tilt your body away from the arm you’re stretching.
- Once you feel a stretch in the chest, hold this position for 30 seconds, then switch arms.
- Repeat 2 to 3 times on each side.
- Setting the Shoulders, and tucking the chin:
- In standing position, tuck the chin in. To help you, you can e.g. place a tennis ball under the chin and attempt to hold it.
- Then pull the shoulder down and back, attempting to squeeze the shoulder blades together.
- Hold this position for 3 seconds, then return to neutral and repeat 10 times.
- If you are finding this too easy, you can increase the amount of repetitions, or add weight.
Bart Klimek | Sports Massage Therapist