3 Easy Exercises to Improve Posture

“Stand up straight!” “Stop slouching!” If you’ve heard those remarks before, especially from your parents growing up, raise your hand. They may have been nagging comments, but your parents were right. Posture not only affects how you look externally, on the outside, but how your body functions internally. Your posture influences how you breathe, your focus and concentration, vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and GI system, and stimulates overall well-being.

Do not ignore potentially harmful postural habits. Ignoring harmful postural habits leads to illness, discomfort and pain, and increases the risk for the development of disease in the body. Dr. David Jockers, DC is an expert in postural rehabilitation and excerpts from his book, Supercharge Your Health, are shared below for your benefit.

Biomechanics of the spine correlates to overall health

The body was built with a curve in the spine to provide support and balance to the musculoskeletal system. It is essential for preventing deformation to bones, joints, muscles and tendons. Correct posture protects against disc degeneration that can lead to inflammatory conditions and disease. It is also critical for protecting the central nervous system.

Doctors refer to the natural curve of the neck as the “arch of life.” This arch should have a 40-45 degree curve.  As the arch reduces it becomes unstable and results in a forward head shift, which depending upon the severity can add up to 30 pounds of additional weight on the spinal discs, ligaments and tendons.

This postural issue causes major stress on the musculoskeletal system. Loss of the spine’s natural curve inhibits normal physiological and nervous system functions.  The ability to protect the brain stem and support the communication of nerve impulses throughout the body becomes suppressed.

Effects of Subluxation

Slouching, crossing legs, cell phone use, and incorrect ergonomic practices at home, school and work causes poor posture and can lead to abnormal curvature of the spine and abnormal stress on the nervous system, which is known as spinal subluxation.

Spinal subluxation interferes with nerve impulses and can manifest in numerous physical symptoms. Examples include:

  • Neuropathy
  • Back pain or neck pain
  • Chronic pain common in the hips, joints, lower back, pelvis and knees
  • Irritation of a specific area such as arm pain
  • Weakened immune system
  • Organ dysfunction
  • Inability to move or exercise normally
  • Dizziness and loss of balance
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Fatigue

Although our very own chronic habits lead to forward head posture, the spine is also susceptible to trauma from birth, regular physical activities from exercise and sports, as well as accidental injury from car accidents and falls.

Depending on the type of injury and which nerve pathways of the spine become disrupted, spinal subluxations can increase the risk for weakened immunity and lowered quality of life.

Dangers of Forward Head Posture

Vanity is of least concern when it comes to the problems associated with forward head posture. As the head shifts forward, the thoracic spine moves and the weakening of the shoulder blades causes slouching and the appearance of hunchback. These harmful effects trigger the descent downward of vital organs in the chest. There is a decrease in lung capacity, a reduced flow of oxygen into the diaphragm and a lower rate of oxygen reaching the cells.

A reduction in circulating oxygen in the body poses serious health threats. Oxygen is essential for survival because it maintains homeostatic functions including hormone balance, supports blood flow, protects the body from chronic disease and cancer, fuels nutrient absorption and protects the health and healing of cells, tissues and organs.

Studies have shown that forward head posture is an indication of poor health and is reported to cause the impairment of simple activities including walking or sitting comfortably. It is likely that physical limitations of the body marked by poor posture accelerate the aging process and increases inflammation. This is a result of the body’s inability to manage stress and tissue trauma appropriately.

Other evidence supports that the correction of forward head posture:

  • Alleviates symptoms of respiratory complications such as asthma
  • Increases breathing and lung oxygenation essential for physical fitness
  • Strengthens abdominal muscles
  • Restores enlarged tonsils
  • Improves glandular function in the head and neck

Improvements from Chiropractic Care:

Chiropractic adjustments can help compensate for postural abnormalities leading to an improvement in the health of the spine and the whole body. Research performed by Dr. Morningstar and Dr. Jockers found that chiropractic adjustments and rehabilitation exercises lead to the correction of forward head posture and cervical lordosis and restored pulmonary function.

Findings of the study also suggests that chiropractic care can improve the function of the autonomic nervous system by relieving tension that hinders the vital communication between the brain and body.

Corrective care chiropractors are able to identify abnormal features of the spine using x-rays, postural pictures, nerve scans and various technologies. Doctors then develop a specific care plan used to treat each individual’s concern focusing on chiropractic adjustments and rehabilitative techniques like the three exercises that follow.

The good news is that you can start improving your posture at home by incorporating these three easy exercises. Consistency is key with posture exercises. Just like your teeth can be straightened with braces over time, your posture can improve with the correct strengthening exercises done two to three times per week.

Three Exercises for Better Posture:

1)  Hummingbird:

Remove the slouch from poor posture and realign the head with the spine by practicing the hummingbird. This exercise strengthens the muscles between the shoulder blades, improves muscle fibers around the thoracic spinal column, opens up pectoral muscles and lifts the rib cage.

Instructions for Exercise:

  1. Lift arms so that they are parallel to the floor.
  2. Bend elbows and face palms forward to form a 90 degree angle between the bicep and forearm.
  3. Rotate arms backwards in a circular movement while squeezing shoulder blades together.
  4. Repeat for 1 minute.

2)  Butterfly:

The butterfly is an extraordinary exercise to correct forward head posture. Performing this exercise regularly targets muscles in the neck and shoulders that give rise to chronic neck pain.

Instructions for Exercise:

  1. Focus on lifting chest toward the ceiling.
  2. Bring hands back against head so that thumbs point down. *Optional: If reduced flexibility hinders your ability to lift arms and hands behind head, perform exercise standing flat against a wall. You can also align back of head against car seat.
  3. Use about 10% of strength to push head backward while keeping head straight.
  4. Pause for approximately 10 seconds.
  5. Relax and repeat for 1 minute.

3)  Chin Tuck:

An opposing exercise to the butterfly is the chin tuck. This exercise provides balance to the opposite core muscles in the neck by strengthening the deep neck flexors. Performing the chin tuck helps balance the head and neck reducing the occurrence of forward head shift.

Instructions for Exercise:

  1. Focus on lifting chest toward the ceiling.
  2. Maintain head position with ears over the neck.
  3. Place 1 hand on forehead; and
  4. Gently push forward with about 10% of strength (muscles in neck should contract and head should appear immobile).
  5. Repeat for 1 minute.

Summary:

Don’t ignore the signs of poor posture that can impact your ability to sleep restfully at night or concentrate clearly during the day. Poor posture has devastating effects on the body that can only be treated with mindful practices. Utilize these exercises to improve your posture and reap its benefits reflected in overall health and well being.

Written by Dr. David Schwartz, DC D.PSc with Triad Health Center, 2311 W Cone Blvd #228, Greensboro. Listen to his health radio program on 94.5FM Saturdays at 11:30am. His next live seminar is happening on November 16th. To reserve tickets: 336-288-4677 or visit www.TriadHealthCenter.com.