We have probably all heard the motto “sitting is the new smoking” to describe how our health can be adversely affected by not getting enough physical activity. It’s also important to know it is not just the sitting itself that affects our health, but HOW we sit.
Chances are when we sit at our desks, or even in the car or on the couch, we aren’t using our best posture. Instead of sitting up straight, with a natural ‘S” curve in our spines, we sit with more of a hunched over “C” curve, often for hours at a time.
The body was not designed to wear a turtle shell, and we often get the message of its unhappiness with symptoms like pain from the neck to the low back, nerve impingement (especially down the arms), and muscle tension, and headaches.
When demonstrating the first two stretches in the Stretches for Your Tight Low Back series, I mention placing a folded towel behind the head to decrease neck tension. Why? When we sit with that C shape in the spine, the neck has to pull the head back so we can see straight ahead.
Sit up nice and tall using your best posture. Hold your head in this position as you hunch over in a bad posture. You will probably find yourself looking at the floor. The neck works hard to pull the head back so we can see straight ahead again, often for hours at a time (and the head is pretty heavy too). So not only do we feel pain in our neck, but the stiff, shortened muscles take some encouraging to relax and lengthen again (which is where the folded towel comes in).
The side effects of bad posture go beyond back and neck pain. Sitting with a “C” shape also decreases the room for the lungs to expand to take a deep breath, and the digestive system to do its job well. So, while sitting too much is considered as bad as smoking, sitting with a bad posture is even worse.
Take off the turtle shell by trying my Stretches for Your Tight Low Back Program in April, and Stretches for The Upper Back and Neck in May, each Monday on Facebook. In July, I will have more information on a personalized program that addresses your specific posture and mobility issues. Stay tuned!