This is the famous question that I get all the time from my physical therapy patients. We often see the infomercials about products claiming to improve your posture and make you sit up straight. More often that not we are purchasing these products online to try and mitigate the effects of gravity on us all. Unfortunately, all these products don’t do one thing, strengthen your postural muscles to support your weight throughout a given day. What we do know is by doing some simple postural exercises a few times a week we can improve and potential reverse bad posture.
There are many muscles that support the human skeleton when in a vertical position. Most are located in the back between the base of our skulls and the bottom of our gluteals. When these muscles are strong and balanced the system works very efficiently to maintain the skeleton upright. When they are weak and imbalanced, compensations arise, and overuse syndromes arises.
There are also many muscles that negatively effect posture when overly tight, mainly the pectoralis major/minor and suboccipital muscles. These muscles become tightened over time when placed in shortened positions. A good example is sitting at a computer desk over the course of a day with your shoulders rounded forward. This negative effect will ultimately over power the postural muscles as stated above, and injury will occur.
In this blog I will show you the 3 most effective postural exercises to improve your vertical posture. Best part is that no equipment is necessary, and you can complete these at home.
Seated chin retraction/tuck
Sitting in a stable upright chair, keep head in a horizontal position (for most you will have to bring your chin down slightly). Place you right index finger on your chin and bring your chin into your throat. This will be a small move of the head on the neck as shown in photo. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat 10 x.
Single arm doorway pectoralis stretch
Start by standing adjacent in a doorframe. Place your right arm against the door moulding at shoulder height as shown in picture. Then with that same side leg, lunge slightly forward until a stretch is felt in your chest area. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 2 x on each side.
Shoulder blade retraction (pinches)
Start by standing upright with shoulders relaxed and palms facing forward. Then proceed by pinching your shoulder blades together. Do not elevate or shrug shoulders. Tip: pinch your shoulder blades together like your trying to hold a pencil in between the wings.
Begin with these simple at home exercises 3-4x per week and you will see postural improvements over time. I recommend taking pictures of your posture before beginning this routine so you can witness the improvements. If you or a loved one are unsure how to do these exercises or if you are suffering from pain in the neck or back feel free to call our office for a physical therapy evaluation and postural screen. www.sarricapt.com or 347-560-6920.
Dr. Marcello Sarrica, DPT, OCS, CSCS, COMT
Sarrica Physical Therapy & Wellness