16 Feb 8 Posture Problems That Are Killing You And How To Fix Them
Correct posture problems with Pilates to gently elongate your back muscles, creating space between joints crunched by everyday life
Call it grace, poise, self-confidence or plain sex appeal – some people have it, while others don’t. Consciously or not, we send a message about our mental, physical and emotional state by the way we stand, sit and move. Good posture projects good health, vitality and confidence, while slouching can imply weakness, feebleness and self-doubt.
Lengthen your look and slim your midsection by following the exercises developed by Joseph Pilates, a 100-year-old sequence of movements that works to gently elongate your back muscles, creating space between joints crunched by everyday life. Here are eight posture problems that are killing you, and learn how to fix them:
Problem #1: Spinal misalignment
If the spine is lined up correctly – bone by bone – with balanced muscle groups, then back support can function without friction. If your muscles can’t support the body correctly, then good posture crumbles. For example, if the natural curves of the spine become exaggerated, then the bones press down incorrectly on one another, creating tension in some muscles while causing weakness in the others.
The good news is that healthy, pain-free backs are made. As we age, a lifetime of poor body mechanics, on-the-job repetitive actions, and too much hustle and bustle catches up. Every back can benefit from low-impact Pilates exercises that restore strength, keep the spine flexible, and help maintain the natural curves of the neck, middle and lower back.
Problem #2: Slumping and slouching
You know you’re a ‘slumper’ if you round your upper back forward, causing your rib cage to compress downward to the hips. This decreases your breathing capacity, adding an inch to your midriff and losing about two inches in height! That slump also causes your backbone to line up incorrectly, with common activities reinforcing this exaggeration such as typing on a computer all day, craning your head forward and rounding your shoulders. As the bones continuously stack up incorrectly, the rest will follow: friction, irritation, pain and wear and tear on the spine.
Compounding the problem is age. The kyphosis posture is one reason why your grandma lost a few inches as she aged. In addition to height shrinkage, slumping can have the following negative effects:
- Decrease in chest measurement
- Rounding and narrowing of the shoulders
- Restricted chest movement due to the pressing down of the rib cage into internal organs, leading to shallow breathing
- Reduced oxygen flow to the body and brain due to the above; meaning less energy and vigor in your daily life
- Downward pressure giving your heart, liver and stomach less room to function
- Cervical compression and neck pain
Problem #3: Rounding the shoulders
Chances are if you’re walking around with a curve in your upper back, you’re rounding or hunching your shoulders forward. The shoulder is important because it contains many bones that assist in moving the arms. Even the slightest exaggeration can throw off how the left hand and right shoulders work; a misalignment that’s too forward or back causes the delicate balance of the spine to get out of whack.
Work on bringing your shoulders to a neutral position. Learn how to fully expand your chest through various Pilates workouts, giving your lungs more room to work. You should be able to breathe more deeply this way, giving you more energy.
Problem #4: The bent head
Does your head hang forward? Lift your head as if a string were suspending it from the ceiling. The idea is to line your head directly over your shoulders to stay aligned with the body’s center of gravity. This relationship between your head, neck and back keeps the rest of your body in line through your hips, knees, ankles and feet.
If you position your head the tiniest bit forward from neutral, the muscles in your neck and upper back will have to work ‘round the clock to keep its weight in place. This extra weight disrupts the body’s center of gravity, which can slightly change the curve of the cervical spine and on down. This strain tightens the muscles in the back of the neck, which puts pressure on the joints and nerves that may result in chronic pain. A stiff neck, tingling or numbness in the arms and hands, and chronic tension headaches may be symptoms of poor posture.Also Read: Five Easy Steps To Better Posture (no more texting neck!)
Problem #5: Too much arch in your back
The lordosis posture often creates a dull, aching lower back as a result of too much curve or arch in the lumbar area. Even worse, you’re weakening the abdominal muscles, which happens as back muscles overstretch. Other unfortunate side effects include:
- Tight lower back muscles that can compress the sciatic nerve, which causes a dull ache or stabbing pain radiating from your back to the tip of your big toe
- Knees that are usually in the locked position to support the overworked back
- Feet that are turned in so that you’re balancing the bulk of your body weight on the big toe and instep rather than the whole foot
- Tense, tight and often-lifted shoulders that weaken the upper back muscles
Problem #6: Tilted pelvis
Sitting for many hours in an incorrect position reshapes our bones and muscles. Ultimately, we want to create length in our bodies and the pelvis plays an important role in that. You want the pelvis in a neutral position, which you’ll have to work for. Why? To lessen the arch in the lower back with hopes of reducing some of the pressure off your joints and nerves; to lengthen your spine; and to engage your abdominal muscles rather than your already overworked back muscles.
Problem #7: Unsupportive, untrained muscles
The muscles that support your spine might have given up at some point, getting that way through habitual patterns. Just about every exercise developed by Joseph Pilates addresses the spine in three ways: to get you mentally working within your body to break old habits; to strengthen and lengthen the muscles that support your spine evenly; and to do every exercise in a biomechanically sound manner.
By rebalancing the muscles that support your spine, plus mentally focusing on fixing your frame, you can reverse the downward spiral of aches and pains over time. Support the muscles that help your spine: the trapezius muscle or traps, the rhomboids at the center of your back, the biggest back muscle latissimus dorsi wrapping around your torso from sacrum to front ribs, and the serratus anterior under your shoulders.
Problem #8: Weak core
Just about everything you do in life calls for your powerhouse. The muscles work to form a girdle of support for the middle of your body and spine. By strengthening the core stabilizing muscles, you’ll diminish upper and lower back pain, shrink your waistline, lengthen your spine and fix your frame for good!
Protect yourself from a lifetime of annoying aches and pains. Work your way to good posture to release muscle spasms in the lower back, compressed nerves that intermingle with the working muscles, chronic neck pain, recurrent headaches and decreased lung capacity. Start your Pilates training to reach long-term movement characterized by ease, grace, and efficiency. Check our current promotions: flexhk.com/promotions
Source: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Pilates Method by Karon Karter