On Being A Posture Snob Part 1

It happens all the time. Within weeks of going through our HFF Clinical Assessment, our members:

1) Notice that poor posture is truly epidemic in our culture.

2) Start a personal mission to notify everyone about how they’re hurting themselves and how they need to change.

They become Posture Snobs.

Of course, they’re just trying to help the people in their lives feel better. But this can be taken the wrong way sometimes, and they encounter push-back and resistance.

In this series of posts, I’ll cover the basics of how poor posture is affecting our family and friends. Hopefully, it will be something that you can pass onto those that you care about. Oftentimes, it’s tough when you are trying to help someone close to you, due to “proximity bias”. When it comes from a third party, your peeps may be more open to it.

In part one, we’ll cover the issue of head carriage, or Forward Head Posture.

forward-head1

The diagram above (from manual therapist Erik Dalton – www.ErikDalton.com) does a nice job of illustrating how the head can migrate forward in our flexion-obsessed world.

For every inch that your head moves forward of your shoulder girdle, your head essentially increases it’s weight by 10 pounds, in relationship to the stress it places on your neck and upper back.

In todays post, I’ll explain why you should care, and  give you a simple game plan to stop (or even reverse it) from happening to YOU.

Friends don’t let friends have 42 pound heads!

Why You Should Care

1) You’ll eventually look like a mutant, and your friends might try to set their drinks on your upper back.

2) Chronic tension and stress on your neck and shoulder complex.  Trust me, if your head is forward, you have tension and discomfort. You may have gotten used to it over the years, but you’ll be shocked by how much better you can actually feel.

3) Decrease up to 30% of your lung capacity, and especially limits your inhalation abilities.

4) Increased aging of your spine which leads to degenerative joint disease.

5) Can neurologically inhibit peristaltic action and lead to constipation , see Constipation –  Are You Full of It?

To name but a few…

How To Fix It

I am going to outline 4 main areas of focus for you in terms of preventing or reversing Forward Head Posture (FHP).

Note: Please get clearance from your medical professional before attempting any of these suggestions. Although most will be fine for the majority of golfers, you should always be conservative when working with your neck.

Body Work/Massage

As with any postural distortion, FHP creates tension in certain groups of muscles, while it lengthens and weakens others. In order to release the tight muscles, I suggest you seek out a therapist trained in either Neuro-Muscular Therapy (NMT), Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) or an Advanced Rolfer. These folks will have the specialized skill set to work on the front part of your neck (which is often ignored by traditional therapists)

FYI – Anterior neck work isn’t a walk in the park, but the benefits are well worth it.

Corrective Exercises

There are a couple of exercises to actually strengthen the muscles in your neck that get weak from extended periods of time in FHP. This will make it much easier for your head to settle back over your shoulders.

Today I’ll introduce you to one of the more gentle exercises, and then I will create a video with several more in the coming months.

The Supine Head Retraction

1) Best to perform this on a semi-soft surface, such as a mattress, lying on your back.

2) Keeping the back of your head in contact with the bed, gently flatten the back of your neck down toward the mattress, and at the same time pull your chin in. Basically flattening your neck and giving yourself a double-chin.  This needs to be done GENTLY, so that you activate the proper muscles to pull your head back over your shoulders.  Think of using only 10% effort.

3) Hold this position for 10 seconds, then relax completely for 10 seconds. Perform up to 2 sets of 10 reps, once per day.

Correct Breathing Patterns

It will be virtually impossible to correct your FHP if you are predominately chest breathing.  I will be doing a separate blog post on diaphragmatic breathing soon.  In the meantime, here a few pointers:

1)  As you take a breath in, your belly should rise first, not your chest.

2)  As you exhale, your belly should fall back towards your spine.

Again, look for a full blog post on this topic soon.

Postural Awareness

Once you have restored the quality of your neck tissues, strengthened the weak muscles, and are breathing properly, you still have to be aware of your posture. All the bodywork and exercises cannot compete with sitting at a desk for 8+ hours a day in poor posture.

Sitting is by far the most damaging daily activity most of us do for our body and overall vitality. In many ways, we are sitting ourselves to death!

sitting

Look for an upcoming post on how to set up work station with optimal ergonomics.

That’s All Folks…. (for now).  If you have family or friends that you think might benefit from this post/blog, please forward it onto them.  Thanks!

Questions/Comments?  That’s what the box below is all about.  Let us know what you think and what topics you’d like to see covered in future posts.

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Great post Stephen.

I’ve been looking forward to this one as someone who works at a computer. I can’t wait for the next. I am actually designing a new studio desk, so the timing is perfect.