“Stand up straight.”
“Pull your shoulders back.”
“Suck in your belly.”
“Lift your head up.”
These are some of the comments you might hear from your mother about your posture. The correct spine posture for mobility and movement are equal curves approximately 20-40 degrees in the mid back and low back, in an “s” shape. When these are out of alignment, there is different pressure placed on the cushioning discs in the spine. This pressure can lead to muscle imbalances, balance issues, pain and coordination problems.
The most common postural problems include a high curve in the upper back called “kyphosis,” a low back sway or arching with tipping of the hips forward called “lordosis,” or a flat back with little to no curve or even forward head posture called “tech neck.” All of these postures can contribute to pain in the body. This pain can be in the neck or back which can cause simple movements like washing your face or walking to be impaired.
In addition to pain and mobility issues, postural impairments can also lead to breathing and respiration issues. In a small 2019 study of students those with forward head posture, “tech neck", had caused difficulty and decreased lung capacity.
Even performing just three simple stretches every day targeting each part of the spine can help increase mobility, circulation and help relieve pain.
Here are three stretches that can help:
- Wrist Desk Stretch - While seated at your desk, place your fingers against the edge of the desk with arms outstretched and thumbs pointing outward. Keeping arms straight, push into the desk and create stretch and tension in the forearms and wrists. Hold this for 8-10 seconds. Repeat 6-8 times. This stretch targets the cervical spine by releasing the long connective tissue from the wrists up through the elbow and shoulder to the neck. It is interesting to think that such a simple stretch can help relieve tension in the neck, but it really works.
- Wide Pull Stretch - Standing with hands on the nylon straps midway between loops and rings, or where it is most comfortable, and elastic center around the back, press arms out to the sides and squeeze shoulder blades together to open the chest. This stretch targets the thoracic spine and opens the chest. When the chest muscles are much stronger than the upper back muscles, the shoulders round forward and create a hunched like posture. This can happen from sitting in a chair and typing at your computer.
- Standing Knee Drop - Place hands on a desk or table. Then, put one ankle on the chair behind you. Slowly bend the back knee and lower the body to feel a stretch on the front of the thigh. Hold for 8-10 counts while pressing the hips forward. Repeat 4-6 times and then switch sides. This stretch targets the lumbar and sacral spine which work in unison for many movements of the body. This helps release the hip flexors which pull the pelvis forward and create more arch in the lower back. Be certain to perform this on both sides of the body, while one may be tighter than the other.
The goal is to create correct alignment in your spine, and sometimes our lives are not conducive to good posture, like sitting at a desk or hunching over your phone. Taking time to stretch is vital to helping obtain better posture in order to relieve pain and mobility issues.
Andrea Metcalf is a celebrity fitness expert specializing in functional fitness including flexibility training. With over three decades of experience in the fitness world, a best-selling book, and more than 500 media appearances, she is a trusted fitness and wellness expert.