Realizing posture & simple stretches you can try while at your desk? Is sitting the new smoking?
Let’s face it, we are addicted. Addicted to our phones, to work, even to our love of Netflix binging. Currently, we seem to be glued to our phones, tv, and computers more than ever before being sedentary for hours on end. So, is sitting the new smoking? If it is, how do we break the habit before it breaks us? Most of us wait until we are in pain or have a structural problem before we seek help. The answer of course, is to get a massage! Simple enough, right? But is it enough?
First things first, book a full body massage with your favorite licensed massage therapist. If you do not know one, ask a friend for a referral. A massage therapist will be able to assess any problem areas that are causing pain. Your therapist will look at a variety of things on your intake form, such as hobbies, occupation, lifestyle and medical problems. They may ask you more questions to further their understanding of where you carry stress, which will determine if your posture could be the culprit. Once on the table your massage therapist can work out tension in the upper body. The muscles of the upper body are the most common places we carry stress, and tend to be shortened and tense due to postural imbalances. Once these problem areas are relaxed and opened you should feel relief. Although massage will help alleviate stress and tension caused by postural imbalances, a little homework assigned by your massage therapist will help kick any bad habits to the curb.
The next step may be homework assigned by your massage therapist to break the bad habits that all our bodies have become used to. Most of the homework consists of simple stretches you can do at the office or at home. Here are a few of my favorite stretches I often assign to clients:
1. While sitting at your desk chair, place your right hand under the chair. Take your left hand and place it on your head. Using your left hand slowly tilt your head to the left shoulder while keeping the resistance under the chair with the right hand. You should feel a stretch in your scalene and sternocleidomastoid muscles (side and front of neck) as well as the upper trapezius (top of your shoulders). Hold for 20 – 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
2. While sitting in your chair, place your right hand flat on the middle of your chest right under your clavicle. Compressing your chest slightly, look straight up until you feel a stretch in your platysma (muscle from clavicle to chin), hold for 10-20 second. Still compressing with your right-hand tilt your head to the left and slightly up, holding for 10-20 seconds. Switch to your left hand repeating this stretch in the opposite direction. This will stretch the muscles, tendons and ligaments on the neck and will help if you have a straight/military neck (this is caused by losing your natural curve of the spine, which is also caused by poor posture).
3. While sitting in your chair, sit straight up and bring your arms as far back behind the chair as you can. You may even be able to grasp the back of the back of the chair to help give you a better stretch. But do not force it, only go as far as what feels good to you. This will open up the pectoral region of the body and help with rounded shoulders.
Two things that will prevent chronic problems down the road are becoming aware of your posture and receiving massage on a regular basis. Doing simple stretches throughout the day and getting up from your desk to walk around can significantly break poor posture habits. So, let’s kick those habits and make poor posture a thing of the past!