Common Postural Dysfunctions and Symptoms
As we talked about in our last blog post, sitting for more than 4+ hours a day can start to create some seriously intense muscle and postural dysfunctions. Why is that such a big deal? Well, it might not seem like it is in the moment but just like a chain of dominos, bad posture can lead to chronic pain and injury if left untreated.
I know, because I experienced this first hand. A runner my entire life, I slipped into a 9 month long mental and physical funk when I injured my knee running a half marathon. Initially (and wrongly) diagnosed as a torn meniscus, the real culprit was eventually discovered: weak glutes and tightened hip flexors from too much sitting. I had gotten away with working a 9 to 5 desk job and running and hitting the gym after work or on weekends without any issues up until that point and I was shocked to learn that my debilitating knee pain was from something so simple and preventable.
Whether it’s a exercise inhibiting injury or something more subtle like chronic lower back pain, it’s likely that your posture and the number of hours a day you spend sitting at a computer or in your car have something to do with it.
Here’s an overview of the two most common types of posture distortions, how to identify them and what you can do to fix them.
Upper-Extremity Postural Distortion (also called Upper Crossed Syndrome)
What it affects: Upper back, pectoral muscles and cervical flexors
What’s going on? Weak neck flexor muscles and lower traps/rhomboids; tight pectorals and upper traps/levator scapula
Symptoms: Rounded shoulders, frequent headaches, neck and shoulder pain, possible shoulder impingement (pain and popping).
Chair Squat Exercise
Remove high heels if you’re wearing them. Stand in front of your chair, bend your knees and squat until your bottom makes contact with the chair. Without resting your weight on the chair, stand back up while squeezing your glute muscles. Make sure knees don’t go past your toes and that they’re lined up with the second and third toe. Repeat 15-20 times for 3 sets throughout the day.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Stand with your desk chair in front of you (if it’s on wheels, anchor it against a wall or lock the wheels) with the back of the chair lined up with your left side. With your left arm grip the back for your chair and place your left foot on the seat of your chair so that your left leg forms a 90 degree angle at the knee. Your right leg should now be to the right of the chair and slightly bent. Lean forward into the stretch and feel the hip flexor in your right leg lengthen.
Core Plank Exercise
Start in a push up position. Bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms and raise up onto the tips of your toes. Your body should be in a straight line from your ankles to shoulders, supported by your forearms and feet. Suck your stomach in, keep your head looking down and hold for 30-60 seconds.
Lower-Extremity Postural Distortion (also called Lower Crossed Syndrome)
What it affects: Abs, back, hips and glutes
What’s going on: Weak abdominal muscles and glutes, tight muscles around the spine, hips and hamstrings.
Symptoms: “Caved” in lower back, protruding stomach, tight hamstrings, lower back pain
Shoulder reverse flies
Securely attach the middle of a long band or tubing in front of you at shoulder level. Grasp the other end of the band in front of you at shoulder level. Pull the bands outward and back. Hold & slowly return.
TIP: Keep your back and neck straight, and avoid leaning over.
VARIATION: Perform in sitting
Upper trap/Back Stretch:
Clasp your hands in front of you, look down and round your upper back to get a stretch in your upper traps
Cervical Flexor Strengthening:
Place the middle of a theraband or resistance band around the back of your head. Grasp the ends of the band in front of your head. Keep your neck in a neutral position with the chin slightly tucked. Extend your elbows, stretching the band in front of you. Slowly return, and keep your neck stable.
So, What Can I Do?
With posture issues and imbalanced muscles there is a short tight muscle and an opposing muscle that is longer and weaker. The shorter, tight muscles require stretching and the opposing weak muscle will require strengthening to even out the imbalance and correct posture. This combination of strengthening and stretching will help restore balance and put an end to the cumulative injury cycle.
You’ll also need to put an end to the repetitive and damaging motions and behaviors that are leading you to sacrifice good posture and proper muscle balance. That means breaking up your extended periods of sitting:
- Go for walks every 30 minutes to an hour
- Get a standing desk and alternate between sitting and standing
- Use a standing desk mat to help you stretch and activate different muscles
- Have walking meetings
- Switch your desk chair to a stability ball chair
A one-two punch of correcting the damage that’s already been done as well as changing up your repetitive and daily habits is essential. This course of action will keep you on the path to staying active and healthy despite the fact that you’re confined to an office and desk for 40 or more hours a week. Make that time work for you instead of against you; and let us help you do it.
Download our free ebook filled with stretches and exercises you can do right at your desk (discreetly!) to correct posture and muscle imbalances and prevent injuries and pain down the road. (don’t include until ebook is available)