We are kicking off a belated Posture Month (which is in May) as an end of summer and back to school PSA (public service announcement). Now that everyone is back from vacation, we are finding that this is the perfect time for more posture policing.
Whether we are going to remain on Zoom calls or back to the office in person, we are going to have to battle the roller coaster of poor posture.
I can go through the million benefits of why good sitting and good standing posture is key and I can speak at length for days. But for the sake of ease, I'll spare you. We all know deep down that good posture yields better self-esteem and productivity. Today our focus is on getting those shoulders back and staying there for good!
Here are my top 4 exercises for preventing forward shoulder posture!
Thoracic Extension Mobilization
Thoracic Mobilization with a Ball
Thoracic Extension Holds
Scapula (Shoulder Blade) Clocks
Here is why these exercises work:
These exercises work because the neck follows the spine. If your lower back is whacky and your mid-back (thoracic spine) is off we can imagine that the domino or the stack of Jenga blocks IS and WILL be off and unstable. So much of the improved forward shoulder posture which then affects the neck has to begin at the spine. Then finish it off with the shoulder blade and VOILA, better shoulder posture.
Thoracic Mobilization: Find yourself a towel to roll or a half foam roll and grab a stick (perhaps a broomstick). Lay down with your towel or foam rolls situated under your upper back. Grab your stick then with elbows straight start using those props to help you increase flexibility in that midback. Go to the point of pressure and back off. Start at the mid shoulder blade and then move your arms up ever so slowly like you were lifting something overhead.
Upper Thoracic Mobilization with Ball: Hug a handball across your sternum and start by rotating or side-bending your truck, even using your neck is ok. But the goal is to work the ball in giant circles at your rib cage and trunk to improve accessory motions.
Thoracic Extention Holds: Every good mobilization warrants re-education and, in this case, it is to stabilize to build the small endurance muscles that run along your spine called multifidi. Hold for about 90 seconds. We all want to continue to build our stamina to hold our shoulders back all day-every day!
Scapular (Shoulder Blade) Clocks: Now that the mid spine and trunk have a better base, it's time to build awareness of the position of the shoulder blade. Ensuring your shoulder blade is moving properly ensures your shoulders are moving properly!
Routinely doing these exercises for a good 5-6 weeks will yield visible change. If you find yourself needing reminders to avoid poor sitting or standing posture, my favorite device is the Upright Go! We love it so much, we even made it into their commercial. :) You can find a link to the Upright here.
Dr. Justin C. Lin