Published April 20, 2013
Managing your pain through posture
Managing your pain through posture
Good posture is not only aesthetically pleasing — but it helps you feel better, too.
Why you need good posture
Good posture is an enviable trait. Proper posture makes you look younger as it eliminates that hunched, shortened appearance and maintains height. It is attractive, functional and healthy.
"Good posture is one of the most important components of being fit," said Brooke Marrone, a New York City-based personal trainer, who is pictured here.
Proper posture prevents pain and even health and musculoskeletal problems. If you stand tall, with your chest open, you are actually able to breathe more efficiently and open up your lung base.
Good posture also prevents neck and back pain, as an aligned spine will have less pain. Shoulder pain is also reduced when shoulders are in alignment, so you have less risk of rotator cuff issues. Proper head positioning — directly over the body and not too far forward or tilted to one side — prevents headaches.
Mike Gostigian, former Olympian and personal trainer, is pictured here demonstrating one of his favorite posture exercises. Good posture is the foundation for great performance. Athletes, musicians, dancers and actors all learn posture and positioning as a foundation for excellence. When your joints are aligned, your muscles can fire in their strongest position and your body moves with least resistance.
Ergonomics, defined as 'work efficiency,' is the term used to describe proper positioning. Ergonomics applies to all areas of getting things done: driving, computer work, child care, cooking, physical labor and even exercise. Proper positioning makes you more efficient physically so that the body can function in the position it is strongest and least likely to become injured. Your best ergonomic position is one where you are facing your task without having to twist, bend or rotate your joints in an uncomfortable way.
Your work station should include a keyboard drawer that allows your fingers to move freely with your arms at wrist level, not angled. You should have room to be able to push your chair in enough so that your back can be on the backrest, and you can still comfortably to reach your desk and see your monitor.
Your monitor's height should be at a point where you don't have to tilt your head to see it. Sit so that you are most comfortable. Chair height and back should be adjustable, and there should be a high enough backrest that you can sit all the way back.
When it comes to using your Smartphone or texting; sit properly, keep your shoulders back by gently engaging shoulder blades and limit the amount of time using your device. For extensive communication, use your computer. If you are using a laptop, raise it on a pillow (on your lap) so you don’t have to lean over it. Position the keyboard and screen within easy reach.
The right way to sleep
Sleep is a vital part of life and health. It plays an important role in posture and pain, as well. While most of us do not stay in one position all night, starting and returning to good postural positions is restful and restorative. With proper positioning, pain can be relieved overnight.
One mistake many people make? Having too much pillow height. As shown in this picture, a low pillow with more cushion under the neck and less under the head keeps the cervical spine (neck) straight and eliminates pain. Your head should be straight over the body, not pitched too far forward. Placing a pillow between your legs will prevent your spine and pelvis from twisting.
Carrying your bag
When it comes to purses, handbags and backpacks, the best solution to an aching shoulder or neck is to limit what you carry. Think: Do I really need this bottle of water? How about that heavy book? Keep extra shoes at work, pare down your makeup bag, consider a light, slim computer - or better yet, online file storage. While a backpack, or even a front pack, is most ergonomic, switch sides if you must carry a bag.
Walking right and having good standing posture will reward you: You will look younger, breathe easier and appear taller. Imagine a balloon attached to your head; this is what dancers refer to as their 'plumb line (notice how dancers have great posture?). Keep your shoulders back, head directly over your body, not pitched forward.
“Walk tall through your knees, your hips, your chest and neck to create length,” said New York-based physical therapist Ben Gold, who is pictured here.
Reverse the hunch
This chest and peck stretch is a good way to reverse any hunches, which many people have. In a doorway, Ben places one arm bent slightly below shoulder level behind the entrance and leans in slightly. To increase the stretch, with the opposite hand, hold down your chest at the top of the peck muscle and rotate away just a little bit. Keep your nose in alignment with your breastbone and allow your head to fall forward. Gently stretch and hold for five to 10 seconds, repeating three to five times.
In this photo, Brooke demonstrates the "Supermans," as I like to call them. It's the ultimate exercise for posture. This exercise can be broken down into just arms and just legs if lifting all fours is uncomfortable. Adding a "swimming" motion will make it even more advanced. Hold your 'Superman' for three to 10 seconds and repeat three to five times a day. Also, consider postural workouts, such as swimming, yoga or Pilates.
Brooke demonstrates one of my favorite 'exercises' - and it doesn't involve any sweating or motion!
This can be done in bed or standing against a wall. This exercise opens up your chest, shoulders and arms. Simply flatten your body against a wall (or your bed), and hold your arms at shoulder level in 'goalpost' position.' Hold for five to 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat three to five times.