Body

Sore back? Neck pain? How to correct poor posture

From forward neck, hunched back, and rounded shoulders to a tilted pelvis and one-legged lean, neglected postures invite all kinds of chronic neck and back pain. Here's what you can do about it.

By beautyheaven's Erin Berryman
Now let's get this one thing straightened out.
We're never really taught the essentials. Sure, we're taught to swim, ride a bike, draw, write, count, calculate and read for the most part. But the absolute essentials, like breathing, running, sitting, walking, and standing, are pretty much left unregulated.
They're inherently intuitive; we sort of mimic what we see in our formative years and just go for it. It isn't until we're older and self-diagnosing our every ailment that we realise we've been doing the basics wrong our entire lives.
One morning when I was reluctant to get out of bed, I became transfixed with a video in my newsfeed: a man was lying on the floor with his head suspended by some sort of hammock about a few inches above the ground attached to a doorknob. "Improve Posture. Eliminate Neck Pain. A Simple Portable Device for Daily Neck Pain Relief in 10 Minutes or Less." it advertised.
'That's me', I thought.
It isn't until we're older and self-diagnosing our every ailment that we realise we've been doing the basics wrong our entire lives. (Image: Getty)
It continued to show various postures of people at their computers, walking around staring at their phones, and carrying out day-to-day tasks under a general guise of discomfort. Now, normally, I'm not one to succumb to what could only be described as an infomercial. But, alas, all I could see was me, me, and me.
Could I really see myself engaging in a neck hammock daily to treat neck pain? No. Did this prompt me to look into posture correcting techniques to mitigate neck pain from occurring in the first place? Yes.

Why that perfect posture isn’t so perfect

Have you ever forced yourself to sit upright with a tensed core in the name of good posture? Esther Gokhale, the author of 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, explains why you can nip that effort in the bud - stat.
Turns out, this self-correcting technique may do more harm than good.
"They arch their back or pull their shoulders back and imagine that that is good posture. Oftentimes doing so strains the back. That exaggerated posture is not sustainable, and it is also not healthy," she says.
Instead, here's what you should be focusing on...
Neglected postures invite all kinds of chronic neck and back pain. (Image: Getty)

Strengthening the muscles to support your spine

By developing the muscles that are closest to your spine, such as your deep abdominal muscles and deep back postural muscles, you'll be more stabilised and less susceptible to pain. Strong glutes, which strengthen when walking correctly, will also support a healthy posture.
"It's not that you have to take time out of life to strengthen and stretch these muscles. Rather, if you do everyday life in a skilful way, a lot of the strengthening and stretching is taken care of in the process," says Gokhale.
As for the six-pack you're sporting/striving for? According to Gokhale, these superficial muscles aren't as important to your baseline postural support as you think. In fact, they tend to get overused while your deeper muscles get underused. Damn.
The short answer: Be mindful about your everyday movements and engage your key stabilising muscle taking care not to jar your body.

Learn to decompress your spine and do it regularly

A compressed spine is what you tend to get when you're seated for hours at a time or assuming a position without micro-breaks in between (uhh, so 99 per cent of us, then?). Compressed discs and bones lead to all kinds of degeneration, and "when the muscles are tight in the lower back, it constricts the blood supply to the muscles," says Gokhale.
Here are some moves you can do to decompress your spine:
The cat-cow stretch: Increase circulation and strengthen the muscles closest to your spine with this memorable yoga pose. Starting on all fours, this stretch involves transitioning from a neutral spine into a "C" curve, allowing your head to drop between your arms as you arch your back upwards - like a cat - whilst breathing deeply.
Let your stomach sink as you reverse the shape, tilting your pelvis and head upwards. Repeat 10 times.
As a way to decompress your spine, try a cat-cow stretch. (Image: Getty)
Embrace Child's Pose: Open up and elongate your spine doing this crowd favourite yoga pose. Starting on your hands and knees, sit back onto your heels, tops of your feet on the floor, with your knees spread slightly wider than your torso. Try and get your torso as close to the ground as possible with your arms stretched overhead, palms on the floor. After 30 seconds, slowly walk your hands to the left-hand side (like a banana curve) and hold for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.
Overhead stretch: Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart with your arms raised overhead. Straighten your elbows and reach your fingers toward the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat three or more times.
For more posture exercises, you'll want to bookmark this Healthline article here.

How to correct bad posture

From forward neck, hunched back, and rounded shoulders to a tilted pelvis and one-legged lean, neglected postures invite all kinds of chronic neck and back pain.
"Rounding your low back while sitting for extended periods of time in front of a computer, standing for hours stooped over, sleeping improperly and lifting poorly can all lead to debilitating aches," says award-winning sports massage therapist Morgan Sutherland, LMT.
His blanket advice? Get up! Make sure you're engaging in movement regularly and adopt exercises that reverse your bad postural habits such as chin tucks, wall angels, doorway stretches, hip flexor stretches and more, depending on your symptoms.
And, if you're looking for more prescriptive advice, Sutherland goes on to explain which exercises are most beneficial to each habit in this Observer article here.
This story originally appeared on our sister site, beautyheaven.