Exercises to improve posture – reduce back pain and neck tension

Stiff neck? Sore back? Tension headache? Your posture could be to blame for any one of these painful annoyances. In this day and age, our lifestyles are doing us no favors when it comes to our posture – desk jobs, watching television on over-sized furniture, hunching over our laptops like neanderthals…it’s no wonder the chiropractic industry is booming. It is possible, though, to reduce your reliance on medical professionals and painkillers through a few minor lifestyle adjustments to improve posture.

Prevent Posture-Related Problems

First and foremost, evaluate your work station. Incorrect body position while sitting at a computer for eight hours a day can cause all sorts of discomfort – from tension headaches to back pain to hip problems. These are the most important factors to consider for office ergonomics:

  • Monitor position – when facing your monitor, your eyes should look directly ahead, not downward. Some monitors are adjustable, others are not. If yours is not, invest in a couple of stands to raise them up. I’ve got mine propped up on a couple of those white metal shelves you can find in the kitchen aisle (they are meant for organizing kitchen cupboards, but they work well for this purpose). If you are taller, this might not be high enough. Make adjustments with books or other items you find lying around.
  • Leg position – try to avoid crossing your legs. This can be tough for women, but it’s important to be sure your weight is distributed evenly across your hips. Crossing the legs causes stress on the hip joints and can create pain in the lower back, hips, legs and feet. Tucking your feet under you isn’t much better, as it places the pelvis in an unnatural forward position. It’s best for your posture at work to plant your feet firmly on the floor, with your knees at a 90 degree angle. If your chair is too tall for this, and your feet dangle, get a footstool to place them on.
  • Arm position – when your hands are resting on your keyboard and mouse, your elbows should be at as close to a 90 degree angle as possible. If you have to shrug your shoulders to reach these, you are going to develop tension in your neck and shoulders.
  • Pelvic position is very important, as well. Sitting incorrectly creates a lot of extra work for your muscles, because you are pulling them out of their natural alignment (which has numerous repercussions). Ruthie Streiter has developed a wonderful desk posture YouTube video called, Accessing the Pelvis to Sit Well in a Chair. See it below:

Next, take a look at your other habits. Instead of placing your laptop in your, er…lap, try setting up a TV tray for it in front of your seat. This will reduce the pressure on your upper back and neck caused by hunching. Evaluate the place you relax – if your favorite chair or sofa is too big for your body, your back will curve unnaturally to compensate. If your feet don’t touch the floor, circulation will be reduced in your legs and feet; this can cause you to constantly shuffle your position and awkwardly shift your weight from one hip to the other. This kind of posture can be hard on the lower body. Consider replacing your furniture, stretch out on the floor, or just reduce the amount of time you spend sitting.

Posture Correction

The next step is to correct any muscular imbalances that have already manifested from years of poor posture. Many of the ergonomic suggestions above will feel unnatural and uncomfortable at first if you have been sitting incorrectly for a very long period of time. The muscles must be retrained to support your body properly through posture improvement exercises. Personally, I would rather watch a demonstration than read a lengthy description of how to do an exercise; so I’ve provided a couple of videos below that not only show how to do the exercise, but explain why it is beneficial.

Follow these suggestions and you will be well on your way to not only feeling better, but looking better, too. Having good posture makes your stomach look flatter; and when you stand upright with your shoulders back, you look more confident. Reduce your pain and save money on doctor’s bills and painkillers in the process.

What ailments have you incurred due to poor posture?