Improving Your Posture: 5 Exercises To Help You Stand Up Straight
Neck and back pain is often caused by poor posture. These exercises and stretches will help re-train your body to stand up more straight so you can eliminate tension and pain in the neck and back.
Posture is incredibly important for maintaining neck and back health. Good posture helps prevent neck problems and pain. Poor posture on the other hand will actually cause neck problems and pain. Unfortunately, millions of people suffer from poor posture. Often times, it has to do with their lifestyles or job. If you're hunched over a computer all day at work, for example, your posture will suffer.
Thankfully, it is fairly easy to correct bad posture with stretches and exercise. Poor posture causes muscle imbalances in the neck, back, and chest. This in turn puts everything out of alignment and can cause chest tightness, pain in the spine, and tension in the neck. Bad posture looks like the picture on the right; good posture and alignment is on the left.
The stretches and exercises below work to address these imbalances to correct your posture.
Find a wall corner, tree, or something similar you can hang on to. Grab the edge with your hand and lean forward slightly and hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch sides and repeat. Do this exercise for 3 sets, daily. Remember not to overstretch. You shouldn't feel any pain or discomfort while doing this.
The goal of the wall stretch is to stretch the chest muscles. Often times with poor posture, the chest muscles round the shoulders by pulling them forward. This gives an uncomfortable, hunched-over look. Stretching the chest muscles helps re-train them to sit in a neutral position that doesn't pull the shoulders forward.
For this exercise, you will need to find a flat surface to lay face down on. Once you're laying flat, place your arms out in front of you and a bit to the sides - your body should make a sort of 'Y' shape. Lift yourself into the air, keeping your arms out. You want to pull your shoulder blades back a bit. Do this about 10 times, then take a break for 60 seconds. Repeat two more times for a total of 3 sets. If you can't do 10 repetitions, start off doing as many as you can for 3 sets.
This exercise serves to build muscle in the back, neck, and shoulders. Over time, your back will slowly start to regain some of the muscle that was lost, making your posture better in the process.
Shoulder rolls can be done with weight, but it's recommended you start without weight as a safety precaution. Find a comfortable place to stand, and let your hands rest at your side. You want to lift your shoulders up, press them back, press them forward, then let them come to rest at their original position by your side. If this is too easy, you can try holding soup cans, milk jugs, books, or any other kind of weight to make it more difficult. Repeat 10 repetitions for 3 sets, while resting about 60 seconds in between.
This exercise will build muscle in the neck and shoulders, while also helping to stretch the chest muscles.
The chin tuck can be performed against a wall, or seated. The goal is to push your chin towards your neck, stretching the neck muscles and upper spine. To do this exercise against a wall, stand with you back flat against the wall, then press and push back your chin until the back of your head is touching the wall. If you can't quite make it that far, you can put a pillow between you and the wall, and push your head into that. The chin tuck should be held for 30 to 60 seconds for 3 repetitions.
Chin tucks will strengthen the neck muscles, reducing the hunched over look and improving posture.
This maneuver works to both stretch and strengthen your back and hip muscles. See video below.
Alternatively, Shop-Orthopedics carries many different back braces that can assist with posture and support. Such examples include the Ossur clavicle brace and the Hely Weber clavicle splint. These options can be worn whenever is most convenient, and work passively to help correct posture and relieve pain and tension.