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How's Your Posture?



In this time of extensive sitting down, and even standing, in front of screens, a number of people have begun to notice that they're slouching forward. According to an article in Fitandflex.com, "Over time, your muscles adapt to whichever position you adopt the most frequently. If this is a slumped posture, your core muscles and spinal extensor muscles weaken, your shoulder & scapular stability muscles weaken, your neck and chest muscles tighten, your thoracic spine (upper to mid back) stiffens up, your hip flexor and hamstring muscles tighten, and your gluteal muscles weaken. This imbalance can lead to neck, shoulder and back pain, as well as an inefficiency in muscle use and movement patterns, and consequently problems with your daily activities or sports.

Sitting in a flexed or slouched position also places a lot of pressure on the intervertebral discs of your spine, leading to early degeneration and possibly pain and injury." See the graphic created for the Washington Post by Bonnie Berkowitz and Patterson Clark below for more details as to what sitting can do to your body.


An August 16, 2021in Well + Good states that "Poor posture can lead to wild, seemingly disparate health consequences, including incontinence (yes, seriously), constipation, and more—and nearly all Americans struggle with posture at some point, particularly due to sedentary habits, desk jobs, and reliance on technology for work and leisure (hello, tech neck!). Bob Schrupp, PT, founder and owner of Therapy Network, Inc. says tech neck is something that impacts the majority of teens and adults today. The result? Rounded shoulders. Fortunately, there are rounded shoulders tests you can do you see if your posture needs some TLC, according to Schrupp." ... "Schrupp says your breathing may be impacted as well. “Rounded shoulders may affect respiration with the lungs,” he says. Adding that if you have poor posture, your chest isn't able to expand as well as it would with proper posture and aligned shoulders."


An article in Byrdie identifies good posture as " “From a side view, your neck should be curved inward, your mid back curved outward, and your lower back curved inward for optimal core alignment,” Dr. Zazulak. “Slouching not only exaggerates the rounding of your mid back, but also deviates the natural curves in your neck and back.”


When these natural curves are altered, this puts pressure on the structures of your spine and contributes to back pain—one of the leading causes of disability around the world. “Poor posture not only creates angry backs and necks, but also painful shoulders, hands, and knees, as well as compromised circulation and chronic fatigue,” she explains.


“The most general way to conceptualize good posture though is as the position—sitting or standing—which most evenly distributes the weight of the body such that no single region is under excessive load,” adds Thomas Tokarz, DO, Yale Medicine physiatrist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Yale School of Medicine Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation."


Well + Good suggests the following tests:

"The rounded shoulders tests

So, how do you check if you have rounded shoulders? There are three easy shoulder tests you can reference, according to Schrupp.


Test 1: thumbs

This is one of the simplest tests, and the one Schrupp and his physical therapy partner Brad Heineck use in their YouTube video.

  1. “To tell if your shoulders are rounded forward, stand in a regular posture and let your arms hang by your side,” says Schrupp. “Take note of your palms or thumbs. If your thumbs are pointed in toward your body and your palms are facing backwards, it is likely you have rounded shoulders. The thumbs should be pointed forward with the palms facing to the body.” See? Simple!

Test 2: wall contact

Here’s another test Schrupp shared, just in case you need extra proof.

  1. “Stand with your back against [a] wall,” he says. “Your seat, mid-back, and back of [your] head should be able to maintain contact with the wall simultaneously.” How are you stacking up?

“If it is difficult for one or both of your shoulder blades to make complete contact with the wall, you may have forward shoulders,” says Schrupp. “While doing this test, your head and eyes should remain level. If you feel the need to tip your eyes up to reach the wall, you may have a forward head [i.e. tech neck], which often accompanies forward shoulders.”


Test 3: tight pecs

The final test checks specifically to see if your pecs are tight and if this could be the cause of your postural imbalance. For this one, you may want a yoga mat or towel.

  1. “Lay on your back on the floor and place both arms overhead in the "Y" position,” says Schrupp. “Both arms should have complete contact with the floor throughout the entire arm. If not, you may have tight fibers of the lower pectoralis major.”

  2. Then “place your arms in a cross "T" position to check for tightness of the pectoralis minor. Again both arms should have complete contact with the floor throughout the entire arm.”

How to fix rounded shoulders

So what now? You’ve done the tests and determined that you do, in fact, have rounded shoulders (join the club!). Schrupp’s remedies for rounded, forward shoulders comprise another three-pronged approach: stretching tight muscles, strengthening weak muscles, and postural awareness. Pro tip: You can see all of these demonstrated in the video referenced above for extra clarification).

1. Start stretching

First up, stretching! This is especially important if you’ve determined one or more of your pec muscles are tight. “An easy stretch to perform is to lie on a 36-inch foam roller with the roller aligned along your spine and with your head and pelvis supported,” says Schrupp. “Raise your arms to the side and overhead for a prolonged stretch of one to two minutes. You can do this two to four times per day.”

2.Strengthen your muscles

Next on deck, strengthening weaker muscles to create stronger posture. For this one, you’ll need a resistance band. “Grab each end of a resistance band or tubing with your palms facing forward,” advises Schrupp. “Pull the band apart and hold the center of the band to your chest while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five, and repeat 10 times. You can do this two to four times per day.”

Awareness

The last one is the simplest, but probably the hardest—paying attention to your posture. “Make a mental check of your head and shoulder posture throughout the day,” says Schrupp. “Tuck your chin in to reverse forward head posture, bring your shoulders back, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. [Do this] every 30 minutes or so as you sit at a desk or watch TV—make it a habit!”


Want more posture-improving tips? Try this Pilates Video for better posture workout."


The article in Byrdie states,"The best way to improve posture without a corrector is to cultivate body awareness through healthy diaphragmatic breathing and core training, Dr. Zazulak reveals. “Core alignment improves breathing, decreases pain and fatigue, and improves muscle health, circulation, digestion, concentration, body image, and postural muscles. The way you carry yourself influences your physiology, your emotions, and your attitude.”


Dr. Tokarz always recommends an “active approach” to posture correction, “involving postural education, self-cueing to correct posture throughout the day, and focused neck and shoulder blade exercises.” However, “some patients will from time to time ask about posture correctors,” he admits."


How about Posture Correctors?


Another article in Well + Good asks Theresa Marko, MD, founder of Marko Physical Therapy about posture correctors.


In the article she states that "there are a ton of different types of posture correctors out there, but most of them work generally the same. The idea is that you strap one on—they kind of look like soft-shell back braces or harnesses—and just by wearing it, you’ll sit up straighter, which keeps you from wrecking your posture (simple, right?)."


"They can help as a physical block to slouch, but also just wearing something on you will make you remember to sit upright more," says Dr. Marko who likes the Comfy Brace Posture Corrector ($16) since it's worked for some of her patients. "This one helps to keep your shoulders back and your shoulder blades more together,” she says. “It also helps to remind you to sit upright when you want to slouch forward. Sitting upright involves an erect spine and shoulder blades sitting close together.”

Because of their simple design and lower price points, braces are popular posture correctors, but there's also posture straps like the Back Embrace ($60), and tech-enabled posture devices, like the Upright Go ($60 and $80) that buzzes to alert you when you’re slumping or rounding your spine. Instead of forcing your posture in a certain position, these are more like helpful reminders that "train" you to sit straight or stop hunching throughout the day.


No matter which option you choose, it’s important to keep in mind that a posture corrector should only be a temporary fix. "Ultimately, you don't want to wear a brace long-term,” says Dr. Marko. “You want to get stronger so that you have the stability to hold yourself up.” She recommends limiting wearing posture correctors to a few hours a day, and for no more than a month or so."




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