According to the American Journal of Pain Management, “Posture effects and moderates every physiological function from breathing to hormonal production. Spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse, and lung capacity are among the functions most easily influenced by posture.” There is also evidence that poor posture shows “a trend towards greater mortality” as discussed in a study by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Another fairly new risk factor that is starting to become more common is excessive usage of mobile phones, tablets and PCs. Over the past seven years mobile device usage has grown from .3 hours a day to 2.8 hours a day for the average adult. Comparatively, our computer use has remained about the same over the same time period at 2.4 hours per day. A recent article by Kenneth Hansraj, MD the chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation describes that as the head tilts forward, its weight effectively goes from 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position to as much as 60 pounds at 60 degrees of flexion, which is the typical position that we have while using a mobile device.
Try the following five exercises, which require minimal time and no equipment.
Begin seated, or standing, looking forward with shoulders back with good neutral posture. Activate core muscles. Attempt to draw head directly backwards. Maintain level head position. Do not tilt head up or down. Hold for two seconds. Return to start position. Beginners should start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Begin standing in good posture. Shoulders should be back and head up. Bend elbows to 90 degrees and keep elbows near sides. While maintaining good posture, draw shoulders back squeezing shoulder blades together. A stretch may be felt in the chest and front of shoulder. Do not allow shoulders to raise upward. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Beginners should start with 3 sets of 5 repetitions.
Doorway Chest Stretch
Place forearm on wall, or doorway, with elbow bent at 90º. Elbows should be slightly
below shoulder level. While maintaining forearm contact, lean body into doorway until gentle stretch is felt in the chest and shoulder. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Beginners should start with 3 repetitions on each side.
As described earlier, prolonged sitting and its effect on posture is not limited to the upper body alone but also affects the lower body. Tightness of the hip flexors along with an inhibition of the extensor muscles can lead to an aberrant motor pattern know as “gluteal amnesia” according to McGill. (8) He recommends exercises to enhance gluteal muscle function to unload the back in additional to hip flexor mobility with specific psoas muscle targeting.
Here two very effective and easy to perform exercises that clients can do during short exercise breaks throughout the day:
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
Begin standing in front of a chair about 18 inches away. Place one foot flat on the chair seat. Slowly allow hips to glide slightly forward until a gentle stretch is felt on the front of straight leg. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Beginners should aim for 3 sets each on each side.
Glute Hip Bridge
Begin lying on floor, facing up. Bend knees so feet are firmly on floor and arms extended
to sides. Activate core muscles. Lift hips off floor to attain a bridge position with knees, hips, and shoulders in alignment. Slowly return to start position. Repeat for prescribed repetitions and sets. Initially, you may develop some cramping in the back of the thigh. A simple hamstring stretch, before and after, may prevent this from occurring. Beginners should aim for 3 sets.