Modern life alert! If you are constantly sitting at a computer, using your smartphone too much (guilty!) or generally engaging in activities that thrust your neck forward into an unnatural position (like reading a book for example), you may be suffering from ‘Forward Head Posture’ (aka text neck).
What is Forward Head Posture?
In a perfect world where we all had perfect posture, your head would be balanced directly above your spine, and your shoulders would be held down and back. Forward Head Posture (FHP) occurs when you consistently hold your head in a forward position for an excessive amount of time. Think about the way your head is positioned as you read this, you’re probably leaning forward over your phone or tablet, right? That’s FHP!
Over time, this position makes you start to round your shoulders, hunch your back and puts a strain on your neck, which can then lead to a whole host of health problems like shoulder pain, stiff neck, backache and headaches.
How do I fix it?
One way to ease the tension built up in your head, neck and shoulders from poor posture is to go for regular massages. Getting massages helps to ease the strain in the muscle tissue and releases the acids and chemicals that build up, which (if left un-checked) lead to muscle stiffness and soreness. Prevention is always better than the cure, so the best way to fix the problem is to start correcting your posture now to prevent issues further down the line.
You can start by making minor adjustments to your everyday life that make the biggest difference overall, such as:
• Holding your smartphone, tablet, kindle or book further in front of you rather than below your eye line to relieve the strain on your neck
• Sitting at your desk at work? Make sure your desk, chair and computer screen are set up correctly to minimise the pressure on your neck and shoulders. Speak to your HR department to make sure your workspace is set up correctly
• Start doing some stretches and exercises to help strengthen your core. These can easily fit into your current gym routine or be performed at home. Not sure which ones to try?
Use these gym techniques to help you to perfect your posture!
This move works the abdominals, the obliques and transverse abdominis muscles. These are the deepest core muscles that wrap around your waist and pulls your abs inwards and upwards towards your spine to keep you supported (a bit like a corset):
Cross over sit-up
- Lie on your back with your legs straight out, your toes pointing up and your arms reaching overhead on the floor. Press your lower back into the floor
- Exhale strongly and pull your navel in and up towards your spine. Roll up in slow motion reaching your arms off the floor, then your shoulders and head, rolling up one vertebra at a time until you're sitting up with your abdominals still pulled in. Slowly roll back down. Repeat three to five times, adding more repetitions as your core gets stronger
- Increase the intensity: cross your arms over your chest as you roll up for a tougher yoga sit-up!
By involving the legs and the obliques, this exercise works all the core muscles, giving you a really strong column of support for your spine:
- Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, your chest lifted off the floor and your knees pulled into your chest. Keep your lower back pressed into the floor
- Focus on tensing your tummy and pulling your navel in and up toward your spine. Pull one knee into your chest whilst extending your other leg straight and rotating your torso toward the bent knee. Slowly switch legs, pulling the other knee into your chest and rotating your torso towards it while extending the opposite leg off the floor. Repeat 5-10 times, adding more as your core gets stronger
- Increase the intensity: the closer your straight leg is to the floor, the harder it will be. Try extending your leg just inches off the floor, making sure your lower back stays on the floor
This move will strengthen the erector spine (these are the back muscles that extend your spine and help to prevent slouching) along with other lower back muscles:
- Lie on your tummy and forehead on the floor and palms flat on the floor next to your chest. Extend your legs straight behind you and press the tops of your feet into the floor
- Once again, pull your abdominal muscles in and up toward your spine. Lengthen out through your spine and slowly raise your head and chest off the floor, using only your back muscles. Do not push down into your arms to press up. Keep your hip bones on the floor and gaze down to the floor to relax your neck muscles. After 15-seconds, slowly lower back down. Repeat three to five times, holding for longer as your lower back strengthens
- Increase the intensity: reach your arms straight out beside your head keeping your elbows straight
The plank exercise is a fantastic overall core movement that strengthens the obliques, transverse abdominis, shoulder and back muscles.
- Begin on your hands and knees with your palms under your shoulders. Extend both legs straight behind you with your toes tucked under so you’re in a push-up start position. Pull your abdominal muscles in and keep your eyes looking down at the floor
- Hold the plank for 30-seconds, rest and then repeat. Keep your abdominals pulled in and up so your lower back doesn't sag as you exhale – this will put too much pressure on your back
- Increase the intensity: try balancing on your forearms instead of your hands!
Make these posture-boosting exercises a regular part of your routine to relieve the aches and pains from bad posture and FHP.
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