For most of us we will look in the mirror and see the same person every day. We may neglect the fact that our ability to notice cumulative change diminishes. If we sit for extended periods of time our body will start to sink or slouch which allows our head to move forward. A person’s head is equivalent to about 7% of our total body weight and for every inch that it moves forward of our body the stress on the supporting musculature nearly doubles. What will this do to the muscles that support it?
The supporting muscles immediately become more tense in order to support the extra stress, with time these muscles are working so much that they eventually become longer, tighter, develop trigger points and scar tissue, and may eventually become ischemic (reduced blood flow in tight muscle, where the muscle begins to atrophy and die). All of this will create excess compensation and erratic movement patterns in opposing and assisting muscle groups which “think” they should be working overtime.
Eventually we will decide that it is time to move, dance, exercise or stretch. This results in neck, shoulder and mid back pain or discomfort, headaches and possibly temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD). So the only logical thought that comes to mind is to stop movement all together and go back to sitting. Well that sounds good but what about exercising to improve our posture and overall health?
The best thing to do is to follow a few check points in posture.
- Breathe diaphragmatically and continuously.
- Make sure that your ears are aligned over your shoulders and not in front of them.
- During movement, place the tip of your tongue between your upper teeth and the roof of your mouth. This will reduce the pulling motion of some muscles on the front of your neck.
- Temporarily reduce the exercises that emphasize the front of the body or pulling forward. This would include sit-ups, crunches, leg raises, leg extensions and chest exercises.
- Avoid placing a large pad/ pillow behind you head for support (this will add to the imbalance) unless you have a structural problem, disc herniations, neck fusion or condition that does not allow for a relaxed neck position.
- Stretch your neck muscles daily. Include the trapezius (shoulders), Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) (long muscles on the front left and right of your neck, chest and latissimus dorsi (they actually tend to pull you forward when it is tight). Also furthest from your neck, check your calves and feet. They will surprisingly be tight too.
- Schedule Acupuncture and Bodywork regularly. As well as consulting with a Fitness Professional well versed in biomechanics.
Remember if your neck discomfort becomes severe, radiates (travels), feels numb or nerve like then make sure your acupuncturist knows.