TIPS FOR PAIN FREE LIVING: Improve Your Posture
Good posture is essential for good musculoskeletal health. It’s that simple.
Over time, poor posture may be caused by habits from everyday activities such as sitting in office chairs, staring at the computer, cradling a cell phone, carrying a purse over same shoulder, driving, prolonged standing, or even sleeping. Good posture results when the muscles of the body align properly, allowing for efficient movement. When your body’s muscles and joints are balanced and supported properly, you’re better able to perform everyday activities.
If you don’t maintain good posture when you move or bear weight, the muscles that support your ligaments and bones will be suffer. Poor posture can easily become second nature, causing and aggravating episodes of back and neck pain and damaging spinal structures. Fortunately, the main factors affecting posture and ergonomics are completely within one’s ability to control and are not difficult to change.
5 QUICK TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE
1. OPEN UP: Now that many of us spend our days hunched in front of a computer, “it’s very important for us to be able to stretch and open up and improve our range of motion,” says Jeff Pierce, DO. To stay limber, try to get up for a couple minutes every half hour and stretch, walk, or stand.
2. EASY EXERCISES: Try this exercise: Every morning and night, lie down on the floor and make slow “snow angels” with your arms for two or three minutes.
For an extra challenge, roll up a towel and put it on the floor underneath your spine. Many gyms have half foam rollers—a tube cut in half lengthwise—that you can use for even more of a stretch.
But do these stretches slowly and stop if you feel anything worse than mild discomfort or pain, says Dr. Pierce. “You want to work up to that, you want to make sure that you first get the flexibility.”
3. SIT STRAIGHT: When you do have to work at a desk, sitting up with good, tall posture and your shoulders dropped is a good habit to get into. This can take some getting used to; exercise disciplines that focus on body awareness, such as Pilates and yoga, can help you to stay sitting straight. Make sure your workstation is set up to promote proper posture.
4. LIFT WEIGHTS: The vertebral compression fractures that subtract from our height—and can lead to the “dowager’s hump” in the upper back that’s a hallmark of old age—are due to the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. Women—and men—can prevent these changes with weight-bearing exercises, like walking, stair climbing, and weight lifting.
“People who walk regularly through their whole lives tend to have better bone density than sedentary people,” Pierce.
5. EAT HEALTHY: We all know the bone benefits of calcium. It is recommended that women 19 to 50 years old get 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. For older women, it’s 1,200 milligrams. But again, it may be best to get calcium from food rather than supplements. Talk with your physician about whether or not you need to take supplemental calcium.
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