With our lifestyle becoming more sedentary than ever, it is to no surprise that our postures are changing as human beings.
Endless hours behind Computer Screens, Steering Wheels and being slouched on the Sofa, there's no wonder when we start to do movements we were designed to do, we experience aches and pains and can quite often, end up injured.
As humans, we are now doing less and less and with the continuous improvements in technology, there's more and more reason for us to do less, as we can have a lot more done for us now, than ever before.
Our bodies are going through a period of adapting to our new postures (prolonged flexion) and as a result, when we go to put our bodies back into the positions we need them to be in, to do daily tasks and functions, we struggle with the simplest of things.
Let's look at what happens when we stay in these 'flexed' positions for too long.
A number of muscles shorten. A number of muscles lengthen. As a result, we have imbalances of length / tension relationships and that is where the postural changes start to occur.
As you are no doubt sitting down reading this, your Knee's are flexed, your Hips are flexed, your Spine is no doubt arched to some extent, either over your desk or in a slouched position on the chair / sofa, and your head / neck has dropped forward.
I'm going to keep this simple and not get into too many technical terms, but you can pretty much establish that you are currently in a poor postural position.
What happens to your body as a result of being in this position?
- Quadriceps (front of your thighs) become long and no doubt weak, especially when supporting the Knee structure.
Result? Poor Knee stability and no doubt some kind of achey Knees. The Knee structure takes all pressure and the muscles aren't doing their jobs.
- Hamstrings (back of your thighs) become short and tight at the knee, long over the hip.
Result? Again, poor Knee stability and again no doubt some Knee issue or even some lower back issues. The Knee structure takes all pressure and the muscles aren't doing their jobs.
- Hip Flexors (muscles around your hips / groin) become short and tilt your Pelvis forward.
Result? Adding to the lower back pain you are no doubt already experiencing.
- Glutes (the group of muscles that make up your backside) become long and weak. The reason why it's no doubt heading south and not sitting nicely in those jeans you love so much.
Result? Poor lower back support, over active Hamstrings causing them to become tighter as the Glutes aren't doing their job.
- Abdominals (your stomach muscles. even if you can't see them, you've got them!) have become short and tight. And those 100 sit ups you do each evening, aren't helping.
Result? Lack on strength in your lower back which leads to aches and pains. I'm sure you're seeing a common theme now, aren't you?
- Lower Back muscles have become stretched. Possibly weak too. When you require them to work they tire very quickly and that's when the aches start. Any further work may require help from other muscles.
Result? Lack of strength here. The scientific name for the muscles are the Erector Spinae. A group of muscles that run up the whole spine. These are your main Spinal Extenders. Unfortunately too weak to do their job - which is to keep you upright.
- Rounded Shoulders due to excessive forward head tilt and the Kyphotic (forward tilt from the Spine) postural changes, your shoulders have rounded forward. Added to the tight Back & Bicep muscles which have caused your internal shoulder rotators to become tight.
Result? Constant aches in between your shoulder blades, some around your neck, leading to headaches and clear poor posture when standing. You may be looking quite like a hunch-back.
- Forward Head Tilt from the muscles in your neck getting shorter. No wonder when your head has been stuck in a Computer for 8+ hours a day.
Result? As above. Neck pains, aches around the upper back area and possibly leading to headaches too.
What have you noticed that all the results have in common? PAIN!
Pain that can be relieved, pain that can be removed and pain that doesn't have to be there.
So how do we remove these postural issues?
Firstly, we must look at working on extending all these flexed joints. But not too far as they've become quite short / closed. Too much too soon may result in an injury.
Here are 6 Ways To Straighten Up:
1) Change your Ergonomics. Both at your Office and in your Car. There is no doubt that these prolonged seated positions aren't helping you.
2) Switch your Office Chair for a Stability Ball. You may get some strange looks for a few days, but I am sure that the pain you're in out-ways those little comments, right. There is probably a chance your work colleagues will follow you too.
3) Start stretching. You don't have to become a Yoga Expert, a couple of good stretches a few times a day (morning, lunch and pre-bed) will start to help combat these problems. Hold each stretch still for around 10-15 seconds at a time.
4) Prioritise Extension Exercises in your workout. Exercises like Deadlifts, Swings, any form of Row and Back Extensions are a good place to start. These exercises will help strengthen the Posterior Chain which is unfortunately weak in this case.
5) Strengthen the weak links. The weak links in this scenario are mainly the Glutes, Spinal Extensors and Upper Back Muscles (rhomboids). Work on activating them and getting them to switch on. This will help significantly.
6) Be confident. You will be amazed at how much your posture is effected as a result of you hiding your physique away and closing off. I know many individuals who don't like their shape and therefore hide themselves in closed off postures. Work on opening yourself up, standing tall and being proud with your shoulders back.
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