You know those times when you find yourself frozen in one position, staring at the computer screen or even the road if you are driving and then “return to the present” and thought to yourself, “Holy cow, how long have I been sitting like that?!” You bring your head back to place over your torso instead of your lap, drop your shoulders and wonder why they were glued to your ears? I’ve even looked around at the other cars and wondered if anyone saw me hunched over, shrunken into myself and how funny I must have looked.
My friend/fellow massage therapist and I do a massage trade regularly. In the summer we go out on my deck and there is a window that reflects perfectly. I caught myself very intensely working with what I would call “horrific” body mechanics, and I used to teach body mechanics! We have often joked about catching ourselves in awkward postures while massaging. It was quite surprising at first and definitely a good reminder that we need to pay attention and check in with ourselves.
The number one complaint in my practice that I hear about has to be neck pain and a sore upper back. This complaint comes from a variety of people performing different jobs – office workers, medical/dental staff, hair dressers, construction workers… the list goes on. You might wonder why, with such a diversity of work out there, they have this area in common for pain. The best general answer for this question is that we all work in front of ourselves. I realize that sounds silly, but we do. We don’t reach behind, sometimes we work overhead, but we almost always are reaching forward and forget about good posture. It’s like we get lost in our minds or super focused on the task and completely forget about our bodies.
However you look at it our posture becomes rounded forward in the shoulders and our head juts forward at awkward angles that cause our muscles to hang on for dear life to hold up that heavy noggin. The chest muscles become shortened and tight, and the back muscles become overstretched and weak. No wonder the body is yelling at us! It is calling for attention to fix this repetitive behavior.
Over time these bad posture habits can lead to chronic pain problems, damaged tissues, headaches and changes in the spine. I’m here to give you some tips on improving your posture and the way your body feels. I’ve tried to keep them simple and easy to do. These tips are meant to be incorporated into your life and not just performed once. By integrating them (or even pick a couple) within your routine you may improve how you feel and become more aware of when your body needs you to adjust. You have the power and control to improve yourself!
Tips for improving your body’s well-being:
- Take mini breaks – The body likes motion vs being stagnant. Move your head around, do some shoulder circles and swing your arms. This will get your blood flowing again.
- Think Tall – Frequently remind yourself to be tall. This thought will trigger your body to be more upright and bring itself into alignment. Pull your chin back and open your chest.
- Stretch – Pick a regular time in the day (maybe part of your morning routine, during lunch or at the end of the day before bed) to perform a couple simple stretches. It doesn’t take long and your body will smile. I have listed two for you to try. Don’t worry, they are pretty relaxing ones.
- Exercise – Strengthening your upper back muscles and opening up the chest muscles can help your posture and make it more natural to hold good posture throughout the day. May I suggest Yoga or Pilates to add to your repertoire?
I think you will be surprised by how much you will feel the stretches and then how good your body feels afterwards. You will smile from the inside out.