If you’re noticing aches and pains throughout your body but can’t find the source, your posture could be to blame.
Bad posture can throw your whole body out of alignment, and from there the ripple effect begins.
Achieving good posture is an ongoing process.
At Capitol Physical Therapy, we work with you to make that process as simple as possible.
We aim to understand the source of your bad posture, the accommodations you may need to alleviate it in your daily life, and to show you the exercises that can help you stay aligned.
If you’re struggling with chronic pain due to bad posture, physical therapy can help.
Read on to learn more about the importance of good posture and what you can do at home to work towards it.
What Is Bad Posture?
Before we understand what you should do, let’s get a better understanding of what you should NOT do when it comes to posture.
Bad posture is when you hold your spine in an unnatural position that could later affect your health.
This could mean that your spine is hunched or bent in a way that places stress on vertebrae, joints, and muscles.
Holding your spine in a dysfunctional way can lead to pressure on your tissues, and painful symptoms.
Common symptoms of bad posture include:
- Muscle fatigue
- Tension in the upper back, shoulders, and neck.
- Low back pain
- Ankle pain
- Pelvic pain
- Knee pain
- Shoulder pain
- Neck pain
- Arm pain
- Other orthopedic health conditions
If you’re worried that you may have bad posture, have a look for the visible signs.
Are There Different Types Of Bad Posture?
Bad posture symptoms tend to present themselves in groupings – the most common are hyperlordosis and kyphosis.
When your spine is often held in an unhealthy position, the rest of your body adjusts to compensate.
Your visible cluster of symptoms depends on how your spine may be improperly curving.
Let’s take a closer look at both.
Hyperlordosis is a condition where your lower back is curved further than it ought to be.
This creates a c-shape in your lower spine.
There’s a natural curve in your spine there anyway, but with hyperlordosis it’s extended beyond what’s normal.
Traits of hyperlordosis include:
- Locked knees
- Pot belly
- Shoulder blades reaching too far backward
- Arching of the lower back
- Unusual posture – chest pushing out further than normal
Kyphosis is similar to hyperlordosis in that it’s an abnormal curvature of the spine, but in this case it’s curving of the upper back in a forward manner as opposed to a backward manner.
In more mild cases, kyphosis can cause shoulder pain, impingement, neck pain, headaches, and a decreased lung capacity.
In severe cases, though, it can lead to breathing problems.
Traits of kyphosis:
- Tilting head forward
- Bent knees
- Rounded shoulders
What Causes Bad Posture?
Bad posture has been on the rise since we’ve experienced a global shift in lifestyle.
In a country like the United States, we spend more time working at a desk, and less time being active.
When you spend hours forced to work in unnatural positions (and you don’t take breaks), you can develop poor posture.
Without taking action to combat the development of poor posture, it can lead to discomfort and pain.
The painful conditions that are linked to poor posture are so prevalent that ergonomic desk chairs and standing desk sales are on the rise.
Possible links to bad posture include:
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Poor core stability
- Muscle weakness
- Occupational demands
- Muscle tightness
- Uncomfortable work equipment
- Lack of awareness and education surrounding health and healthy posture
- Not changing position
If you’re worried that you may have bad posture, it’s not too late to start improving it.
You can do plenty of small things to improve your posture, and you can always seek out a professional to guide you.
Physical therapy treatments can help minimize the development of poor posture and the pain associated with it.
Okay, So What Is Good Posture?
Good posture is when you hold your body in a way that reduces strain on your back.
It applies to how you position yourself during various activities.
By staying aware of your posture while standing, walking, running, and lifting you can protect your body from unnecessary wear and tear.
In general, good posture means your spine is mostly straight with a slight curve in your neck and the small of your back.
Your knees, shoulders, and hips should all be nicely aligned.
A simple way to check your alignment is to look down at your knees and see if they line up with the middle of your ankle.
You can also stand in front of a full-length mirror and see if your earlobes, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles are aligned.
Good posture is important because it can help you by:
- Reducing the natural breakdown of joints
- Preventing the early onset of arthritis
- Preventing the spine from becoming stuck in uncomfortable positions
- Preventing muscular pain and back pain
- Reducing fatigue
- Decreasing strain on spine ligaments
- Ensuring muscles are being used properly by keeping bones and joints in the correct position
Exercises To Improve Posture
Physical therapy is an effective way to improve your posture.
Your physical therapist will help you through stretches, hands on treatment, and exercises to aid in balancing your body.
However, if visiting a physical therapist isn’t an attainable option for you at the moment, there are plenty of exercises you can do on your own to improve your posture.
At home stretches and exercises can help loosen up tight muscles and strengthen muscles that help you maintain a good posture.
1. Foam Roller Arch
A foam roller is a great way to loosen up your tight mid back.
By extending your mid back over this at home tool, you can work out minor stiffness that may be preventing you from keeping a proper posture.
Unsure of where to get started with your foam roller?
Here’s a simple breakdown of how to use a foam roller at home:
Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat to the floor.
Then, place the roller on the mid part of your back.
Cross your hands over your chest, exhale and lean backward over the roller.
Keep leaning back onto the roller as far as you comfortably can, then hold it for a moment, and then sit back up.
As you sit up, it’s completely natural to hear some popping.
It might be a little bit sore as well, but it shouldn’t hurt.
Repeat two to three more times, moving higher up the back.
If you want to try this physical therapy exercise but don’t have access to a foam roller, don’t fret.
In a pinch, you can follow the steps above using a rolled up towel instead.
2. Shoulder Stretch In Door Frame
If you spend a lot of time working at a desk, it could be affecting your posture.
When you spend prolonged time sitting down while doing your daily tasks, your shoulders can hunch and your chest can become tight.
You may even find it difficult to sit up straight.
Without being mindful of your posture, you may end up with a hunch.
Luckily there are physical therapy exercises that can help loosen up the muscles in the front of your chest.
For example, you can do the following exercise using just a doorframe:
Raise your arms out and up from your body to make a Y shape.
Press your arms against the doorframe.
Slowly lean further forward into the doorframe until you feel the front of your chest stretching.
Hold the deep stretch for 20 seconds, then relax.
Repeat this stretch twice.
3. Bent Wrist Forearm Stretch
If you find yourself doing a lot of repetitive work with your hands, the tops and bottoms of your forearms may develop a tightness.
This tightness can lead to a repetitive strain injury like carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow.
To keep your forearm muscles loose and limber, try incorporating a bent forearm stretch into your daily routine.
How to do a basic bent wrist forearm stretch:
Reach one arm out in front of you, and bend your wrist towards the floor.
Using your other hand, pull the hand on your extended arm downwards towards your body.
Pause when you feel a stretch along the top of your forearm.
Hold this position for 20 seconds.
Repeat this, but pull the hand on your extended arm upwards and back towards your body.
Pause when you feel a stretch along the bottom of your forearm.
Repeat these steps twice, on each arm.
4. Neck Stretches
As you spend more time in front of screens and taking zoom calls at home, your body may be paying the price.
Hours in front of a computer can lead to slouching and tension in the neck and upper back.
This tension can contribute to soreness and even headaches in your upper back and neck.
To combat the progression of this tension, regularly stretching your neck can help.
Here’s an easy stretch to try for your neck and upper back:
Turn your head and look towards one of your shoulders.
Raise the arm that you are looking at and use it to gently grab the back of your head.
Lightly pull on the back of your head.
When you feel a gentle pull on the opposite side of your neck, pause and hold the stretch for 20 seconds.
Repeat this twice on either side of your head.
5. Cat Cow Stretch
If you’ve ever practiced yoga, you’re most likely familiar with the cat cow stretch.
It’s a popular stretch amongst yogis and physical therapists alike because of its ability to lubricate the joints in your spine and loosen up back muscles.
Not a yoga lover?
No problem, follow along with the steps below to learn how to do the cat cow stretch:
Start with your hands and knees on the ground.
Allow your stomach to sink towards the ground, as you simultaneously raise your head to look at the ceiling.
With your stomach sinking and head looking upwards, you are now in the cow pose.
Push yourself as far as you can comfortably and hold this position for a count of 1.
Arch your back upwards, and bend your neck downwards, to enter the cat position.
Push your back to arch further upwards and your neck towards your belly button as far as you comfortably can.
Hold this position for a count of 1.
Repeat the above steps 15 times.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy
A physical therapist can help you with anything from hands on therapy to ergonomic workplace equipment recommendations.
f you live in the Washington D.C. area and are suffering bad posture, whatever the cause, call Capitol Physical Therapy today and we can help.
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005
9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC