As some of you may know, I experienced a bout with chronic shoulder pain many years ago. It turned out to be due to poor posture while sleeping, and once I adjusted my sleeping position, the pain disappeared within a week.
Daytime posture affects your shoulder joints, too, and excessive sitting, rounded shoulders, forward head posture (FHP), etc. can cause not only kyphosis (Dowager’s Hump), but also pain and discomfort.
So this weekend I bring you the Shoulder Pain Preventer, a deep stretch that counteracts the effects of poor posture by aligning the shoulder joint and upper torso. It also helps boost your confidence, as an intriguing study shows.
Posture is about more than just “sitting up straight.” How you carry your body on a day-to-day basis affects many body systems, including digestion, breathing, and even the integrity of your bones.
When your back is rounded outward, your head juts forward (and vice versa); your ribs compress, your sternum caves inward, and the space in your chest and abdominal cavity decreases. The resulting compression hinders circulation and proper functioning of your digestive organs, and prevents full inflation of your lungs.
Your bones suffer, too, when your posture is poor. Bones that are misaligned simply can’t flourish, because they receive stress and pressure in the wrong places. Muscles tighten and weaken to compensate for the awkward positioning, trying to hold your body steady as gravity pulls against it. This prevents your bones from getting the beneficial stimulation they need to strengthen.
Correct posture utilizes gravity to apply pressure on bone and working the muscles strengthens and relaxes them so they will release and hold the skeleton in its proper place.
Not Just Any Muscle
The human body has muscles designated for different tasks. Posture muscles are designed for tasks that are done largely “behind the scenes.” One of their main tasks is to hold the torso stable. When you take a walk, for example, your posture muscles keep you from falling forward with each step.
Another important task of these tireless muscles is to hold your shoulders and spine in alignment. Poor posture greatly taxes these muscles, and causes them to tighten, shorten, stretch, or weaken. This can cause pain and discomfort in your neck, head, upper back, and shoulder areas.
In light of this, then, it’s clear that poor posture can increase your risk of falls as well. Avoiding falls is one of the key factors in preventing painful fractures, adding yet another vital reason to get your shoulders, neck, and spine into the right position.
Don’t let this information cause you to assume a forced, “military” posture, though. Some people, when they try to achieve better posture, throw their shoulders back, their chests out, and arch their spine. This stance is just as bad for your posture as slumping!
As you’ll see in a moment, today’s exercise reconsiders the charge to “sit up/stand up straight” and presents it in a subtle, highly effective move to bring the upper back and neck into alignment.
More Than Just Physical Benefits
The influence of posture goes beyond physical effects to include psychological and emotional ones as well. Remarkably, researchers found that assuming a strong, natural posture actually influences hormones, decreasing the stress hormone cortisol and increasing “confidence” hormones like testosterone.1
More research points to posture’s positive influence on self-image and self-confidence; individuals with poor posture are more likely to have low self-esteem and a poorer self-image than those with good posture.2
The bottom line is that posture is a state of balance and equilibrium, physically and mentally. So here’s an exercise to help you reach that state.
- Stand or sit up straight. Keep your back straight, but not stiff – a neutral position.
- Bring your right arm up and and back, lightly touching your right shoulder blade with your fingertips (it’s okay if you can’t reach your shoulder blade; just touch as far down as you can without straining). Make sure your right shoulder blade is forward, and not poking out of your back.
- Gently lift your sternum up slightly without arching your back.
- Slowly lift your right elbow until it’s pointing toward the ceiling (or as close as you can get to that position). Keep your hand on your shoulder blade while you lift your elbow.
- Keep your shoulder blade flat and forward and your spine straight – the natural curves that the vertebrae should have.
- Hold this stretch for a minute or so, and then switch sides and repeat.
You can do this stretch periodically throughout the day as well as making it a part of your daily exercise routine. I like to do it after I’ve been working at the computer for awhile, which makes it even easier to follow up with another Weekend Challenge, the Workday Posture Straightener.
Densercise™ Helps You Reach A State Of Balance
Among the more than 50 moves in the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System, you’ll find many that are dedicated to improving balance and posture. And in a larger sense, Densercise™ promotes balance by guiding you through a weekly exercise routine that will help you achieve a state of equilibrium of mind and body.
The Save Institute’s philosophy is about balance – balancing diet, exercise, body, and mind – and of course, practicing moderation in all things. Exercises like the Shoulder Pain Preventer play an important role in bringing your body and your psyche into this desirable state of stability.
Please let the community know your thoughts about this weekend’s challenge by leaving a comment below.
Enjoy the weekend!
1 Carney, Dana R.; Cuddy, Amy J.C.; and Yap, Andy J. “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance.” Psychological Science. 2010. 21(10) 1363-1368. PDF. https://www0.gsb.columbia.edu/mygsb/faculty/research/pubfiles/4679/power.poses_.PS_.2010.pdf
2 Watson A. W. S, and Mac Donncha C. “A reliable technique for the assessment of posture: assessment criteria for aspects of posture.” The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 40. 3. (2000): 260-270. Web. https://www.minervamedica.it/en/journals/sports-med-physical-fitness/article.php?cod=R40Y2000N03A0260