Bad posture….some call it the Disease of Modern Man. It can lead to Upper Cross Syndrome and be responsible for countless hours and days lost from work, family responsibilities, and other activities of daily living because of neck/shoulder pain. In our last blog post, we explained what Upper Cross Syndrome is and discussed its origins. Here, in Part 2 of this subject, we want to look into what you can do to treat and prevent Upper Cross Syndrome.
What exactly is good posture? A strict military posture isn’t needed for most of us. Instead, for seated and standing positions, think of a balloon attached to the top of your head that gently pulls it straight up.
As your head comes up, your shoulders automatically start to roll back in to a more natural position. Ideally, if someone was to look at you from the side, the middle of your ear would be over the middle of your shoulder. If you try this position, it will feel very strange and unnatural because your body has been out of this position for so long. But, by using the tips we list below, your body can start to slowly change back to a better position.
Being more aware of your posture is a good way to begin tackling this problem. Avoiding, limiting exposure to, or modifying activities that will put you in a bad posture will help, but sometimes that’s not enough. Prolonged poor posture causes the spine and associated muscles and ligaments to stiffen and shorten in that forward-leaning position. Trying to consciously correct that posture helps, but if your spine has stiffened in that forward position, you work against your own body in trying to get your back erect again. Additionally, your neck and chest muscles and spinal ligaments, all of which are elastic tissues, are shortened in that forward position, while your mid-back muscles, which are supposed to pull you back into a better position, are too weak to overcome the forward-pulling tissues. Consciously trying to correct your spine can straighten your back to the limit of your spine’s stiffness, while stretching the elastic tissues to get upright. However, when you stop thinking of your posture, the muscles and ligaments begin to pull you forward into that bad posture again.
Obviously, as chiropractors, we believe in the benefit of chiropractic therapy for this problem. We can help to mobilize the stiffness in your spine, returning it to a more natural state of movement. As well, we can start a rehabilitation program to stretch the stiff muscles and ligaments, as well as strengthen any weak postural muscles that you might have. Using Kinesio Tape can also help to support your body by gently pulling it into position. The therapy may also include co-treatment with members of our referral network: massage therapy for the stiff and knotted muscles, physiotherapy or mensendiek therapy for additional postural exercises, or pilates or yoga for general strengthening and conditioning.
Checking your work station for proper ergonomics is also very important, as it taking regular breaks during the day. We all tend to focus on our work so much that we start to forget about posture, so having an external reminder, such as a computer or mobile phone alarm program, or a smartphone app, can help. If you work on a desktop computer, take a 1-2 minute break roughly every 30 minutes (every 20 minutes on a laptop), stretch, move around, get a glass of water, and then return to work while remembering to sit with good posture. If you’re so busy that you don’t feel like you have a minute or two to stop, the alarm still acts as a reminder to check you posture, correct it, and then continue working. The postural stress on your neck and shoulders by end end of the day will be less because you will have only spent short segments with potentially bad posture, rather than the whole day. And with time, the external reminder of the alarm can also help to reprogram our brains to automatically sit more erect.
There are many different ways to work on correcting your posture. We hope you found this topic interesting and were able to take away a few helpful tips. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us.