When we exercise, we know that form is key for the best results. How often though do we think about our “form” or posture during our daily activities? Poor posture can cause many problems: headaches, back pain, neck pain, leg pain and fatigue. It also causes more stress on our joints and makes us more susceptible to injury.
In this day and age where most of us sit for at our desks and computers (even us moms as we type away on Facebook or email), we can get lost in our work and end up looking like the “hunchback” when we stand up. When we sit we tend to have a protruding head which causes neck strain which can lead to back pain. Also as we hunch forward our chest muscles get tight, while our upper back muscle get weak -causing (you guessed it) more back and neck pain. I checked my posture as I was writing this and guess what ?- my head was forward, shoulders hunched and I had some neck pain already! It is no wonder 80% of us complain of some type of back pain! Ideally, our ear needs to be aligned with our shoulder. When we stand our ears, shoulder, hip and knee should all be in a straight line . I know it is impossible to constantly check our posture, so this is where exercise comes in.
One of the key ways to have good posture without even thinking about it is to strengthen our core. Think about it, you can’t tighten your core and slouch at the same time. When I say “core” I am referring to the rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominus. Refer to this picture : http://herniateddiscdrx9000.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/core.jpg?w=500. Any mom who has tried to regain her flat tummy knows all about the transverse abdominus – basically you engage them when you “suck in the gut”. It is our natural girdle. Keep these muscles strong, and you will relieve back pain.
It is also imperative to strengthen the stretched muscles and stretch the tight muscles. Common muscles to be stretched are the chest muscles, neck muscles and hip flexors which get very tight if we sit too long. On the flip side we need to concentrate on strengthening the mid-upper back muscles and hamstrings.
I know as moms we probably don’t sit a lot, but it doesn’t just take hours of sitting to develop bad posture. Holding babies all day can do a number on your posture as well. So here are a few exercises to help alleviate our posture woes:
Strengthen: Back: reverse flys, rows
Hamstrings : hamstring curls, lunges
Stretch : Pectoral (chest muscles), hip flexors(do a quad stretch) and the back of the neck
So do a posture check once in awhile. I need an adjustment just after writing this post! Time to go stretch!