Forward-head round-ed shoulders is one of the most common postural faults. If you sit for extended periods, you’re likely to end up with it, whether you’re young, old, or physically active. If not corrected, it can lead to a host of problems, including herniated disc, numbness and tingling in the arms and fingers, neck and shoulder problems, and headaches.
How does it happen? It is often caused by muscle imbalances in the body. Muscles never work in isolation; some work in opposition and some work together. Muscle imbalances occur when short, tight muscles overpower weak and inhibited muscles, disrupting the natural movement in joints and putting stress on the joints, tendons, and ligaments.
The Two Critical Areas
In the neck and shoulders, muscles that bring the head forward become tight and overcome weak muscles that bring the head and shoulders back. For example, specific muscles in the upper back and neck (upper trapezius and others) overwhelm the usually weak middle and lower trapezius, causing the head to come forward. If you’re at a keyboard all day, every time you move the mouse you’re working muscles in the upper back and neck. Eventually, they become short and tight.
Neck and shoulder muscles are obvious culprits in poor posture, but less understood is the role the torso and core muscles play. How does a weak core factor in? Your core muscles are vital to maintaining good posture. If they’re impaired, they’re vulnerable to the strong flexor muscles in the front of the body. Sitting for many hours a day only fuels this dynamic, which ends up pulling the upper body forward.
In fact, excessive sitting has made such a major impact on our bodies that a facet of the psoas muscle, the psoas minor (responsible for lifting the pelvis), appears to be disappearing in our sedentary culture.
Pilates Works Holistically
Pilates is an ideal remedy for poor posture because it addresses muscle imbalances and how muscles work together. It is unique in providing a medium to strengthen weak muscles while simultaneously lengthening the tight and dominant muscles. This is the essential ingredient to improving posture. It is a process of re-educating the body.
Specific exercises on pilates apparatus facilitate healthy posture and movement patterns by allowing the individual to change one’s orientation to gravity and minimize unwanted muscular activity. Over time the amount of assistance in a specific movement pattern is changed until the desired outcome is achieved. This allows the weak muscles to strengthen while simultaneously allowing tight muscles to relax.
Joseph Pilates conceived and developed this program for its rehabilitative value, which is recognized by professional athletes who use it for both therapy and conditioning. Specific pilates exercises can improve posture, bring the body into balance, and re-enliven the core muscles.
What To Avoid
Too many sit-ups and crunches can actually be bad for your posture, unless you also take care to strengthen the deeper abdominals and core muscles at the same time. While sit-ups and crunches are ideal for developing a toned six-pack, they develop the upper rectus abdominal at the expense of the transverse abdominal, which gets weaker. The greater the imbalance between the rectus abdominal and the transverse abdominal, the greater the chance for low back pain. Clinical research (Hodge & Richardson, 1996) on patients with chronic low back pain shows the transverse abdominal has lost a significant amount of its ability to contract.
If possible, spend less time sitting. Learn how to sit with an active and engaged core. Pilates apparatus enhances this ability. If you do weight training, understand which muscles need strengthening and which need stretching. For example, if you sit a lot during the day, the hamstrings shut down and become tight, so they require stretching more than strengthening.
Restore Your True Nature
If you notice that you’re slumping and no longer have the upright posture you used to enjoy, now is the time to correct it before it creates serious problems. The body is adaptable and capable of self-healing. It just needs to be reminded of its natural capabilities.
Contact Dee Stauffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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