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Tip Tuesday: Upper Back Pain and Posture

We have heard it all our lives, “Sit up straight! Or you will end up with a hunch like…”. The truth is that I am seeing twenty and thirty year old people with hunched posture previously typical for those with older age. Our lifestyles have us hunched over computers, scrolling on phones, and sitting looking down more than anything else. The great thing about our body is it adapts to the forces put on it. The bad news is that our current lifestyle creates forces on our body that it simply was not created for.

As I stated last week, massage and stretching will not be able to completely undo everything in the 15 minutes a day or 1 hour a week you spend doing it. Will stretching and massage help, of course. However, we need to address the underlying issues and not just the symptoms if you would like lasting relief from upper back pain, neck stiffness, headaches, or shoulder injury.

Posture

When I use the word posture, do you sit up a little straighter? I would like to take the idea of posture a bit further than just sitting up straight. I want all of us to think of posture as the way we exist and move in the world. When our body is asymmetrical or our joints are not aligned properly, movement becomes just a bit harder. Our bodies are built in a way that is meant to handle the forces of gravity, but shift your head/shoulder/arm/hip just centimetres out of natural alignment and those forces become much much stronger. 

That Covid work-from-home setup may look a bit different and is definitely a contributing factor to those aches and pains. As I stated above, the great thing about our body, is that it adapts amazingly well. The bad news about this adaptation is that our body will choose safety and stability. That means decreasing range of motion, increasing muscle tension, and that often leads to aches and pains. The most interesting thing about our bodies is they simply are not made to be stuck or sitting in the same positions all day. So you can have a perfectly ergonomic set up and still experience tension and pain, because you are just doing the same thing for too long. 

Solution

While I do not want to make total generalizations and say the same solutions apply to everyone, because every body is different, there are some general recommendations I can make. If you are looking for more specific help, please reach out to schedule a session with me.

  1. Become aware of what you are doing throughout the day that could be contributing to your pain and tension
  2. Add variety to your sitting, standing, inactivity, activity, etc. If you find you are sitting a lot in the day, add some standing. Whatever you do the most of, try to do the exact opposite.
  3. Look at yourself in the mirror or have a professional do a postural analysis. This can give you insights on where you are weak or tight and how to make improvements.
  4. Add a stretching and strengthening routine to your day by focusing on the areas that are tight or weak.
  5. Add professional help to your tool box. A chiropractor, massage therapist, personal trainer, physical therapist, and corrective exercise specialist can all help you create an individual plan that fits your body and imbalances.
  6. Remember that it takes time to create habits and routines that support living pain free. Do not expect results overnight. Keep working at it each day!

Alignment First, Then Strength

You can be very strong, but if you do not have alignment in the joints and balance in the muscles you risk tension, pain, and injury. Remember that balance and alignment come first. Once you have that down, we can take a look at strengthening. Next week we will look at some muscle strengthening exercises that can help.

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