Most spine-related pain is due, in part, to poor posture habits that have likely gone uncorrected for many years. Incorrect posture throws off the spine’s alignment, places added pressure on spine-supporting structures, and throws off the strength-to-flexibility ratio that needs to be maintained to keep opposing muscle groups working together efficiently. If not corrected, posture issues could also contribute to disc damage and other more serious problems. Now that you have a better understanding of why posture is important, here are some exercises that might lead to fewer instances of posture-related spine pain.
Constantly leaning your head forward while working in front of a computer or using your various handheld devices can contribute to a spinal disorder known as kyphosis, which is sometimes called “round-back” or “hunchback.” Reduce your risk of developing this condition by getting into the habit of sitting or standing with your head over your neck and shoulders. Also, try the following exercises to fix forward head posture issues:
• Head tilts and turns and neck stretches to ease muscle tension in the head-neck area
• Gentle stretches that target the muscles that support the upper back (rhomboids)
• Pectoral stretches to ease tension caused by excessive forward head motions and leaning
Spine-supporting muscles aren’t likely to work well together if certain soft tissues are overstretched, tight, or weak. Slumping or slouching often contributes to weak upper back muscles and can ultimately cause long-term issues that may require treatment such as spinal fusion surgery. Los Angeles residents can do these simple exercises to restore upper back muscle strength and flexibility:
• Shoulder blade squeezes
• Butterflies—place your palms on your shoulders as you bring your elbows together
• Isometric exercises—push against resistance without moving the targeted muscles
• Shoulder rolls
• Thoracic (mid-back) extensions done as you sit on a chair and clasp your hands behind your head.
One side effect of chronic poor posture you may not be aware of involves the ribcage. Over time, the ribcage can collapse on top of the pelvis and contribute to tight trunk muscles. Address this particular posture-related problem with pelvis and ribcage posture training that includes:
• Abdominal exercises (e.g., roll-ups, leg drops, scissors, torso twists)
• Side bends, bicycle crunches, side planks with a dip, and other flank exercises
• Back and rib exercises such as head-to-knee bends and certain yoga poses
The curve in your lower back plays an important role in supporting your various movements. This curve is located around the end of your spine (sacrum) and pelvis, and it can be affected by years of poor posture. Target this particular area with:
• Bridges and pelvic tilts
• Knee-to-chest stretches
• Lower back rotational stretches
• Partial curls
Spine-related posture is ultimately affected by the strength of all of your core muscle groups, not just the ones in your upper back, neck, and shoulders. This is because your spine has to help with many different movements throughout the day, so you’re more likely to maintain good posture if everything is working together. An effective way to achieve this goal is with whole body posture training, which can include:
• Pelvic tilts, hamstring stretches, and other flexion exercises
• Chest lifts, leg lifts, and other spinal extension exercises
• Swimming, yoga, Pilates, and similar exercises that target most or all core muscle groups
• Wall squats, corner wall stretches, seated lower back stretches, and other simple exercises you can do during breaks at work or at home to maintain your posture
Go a step further with your posture correction efforts and be mindful of your position at all times, even when standing. You can do the same thing when sleeping by making an effort to avoid sleep positions that throw off your head-neck-spine alignment. If you need a bit more help with your posture improvement efforts, talk to a Los Angeles spine surgeon or consider working with a physical therapist or trainer who specializes in spine-related issues.
The spinal health experts at The Spine Institute know what it takes to keep your spine healthy, and that includes taking care of your posture and the structures that support your spine. If you’re experiencing pain in your back or neck, it may be due to poor posture, so see us for diagnosis and treatment. Call one of our friendly representatives at 310-828-7757 today to schedule a consultation.