When a baby is first born, it has only one curve in its spine. As it begins to lift up its head, it gains another, and after crawling it has 3 curves, which we should maintain throughout our whole life.
Your neck should curve forward (lordosis), your thoracic/mid back backward (kyphosis), and lumbar/lower back forward (lordosis).
Three of the main causes of improper posture in today’s society is caused by sitting down too much, constantly looking down at ones iPhone or iPad, or improper posture when working behind a computer.When one is looking down at an iPhone it causes them to strain their neck forward, which causes straightening of the cervical curvature of the neck. This all too common posture seen today is medically termed “anterior head carriage”, or more informally, “text neck”.
The average head weights approximately 12 pounds, and ones body is designed perfect to support this weight on top of the spine. For every inch forward ones head moves due to anterior head carriage, the weight of the head on the spine increases by 10 pounds! Try picking up a ten pound weight and imagine your spine supporting that much extra throughout the day. This also goes along with an increased backward curve (hyper-kyphosis) of the thoracic spine.
These changes in the curve of the spine come with many side effects. In addition to the increased weight on the spine, which can cause arthritis and degenerative joint disease. It also can affect the oxygen getting to your neck muscles and brain, leading to impaired muscle and cognitive function. These are just a few of the issues arising.
So now you know what you and/or your loved ones may have, but now you need to know how to fix it. The first step is to stop doing what caused it in the first place. This includes holding ones iPhone or iPad up to a higher level, so you don’t strain your neck by looking down. It also involves not sitting as much during the day (standing tests are great!), and when you do making sure your ergonomics are great, especially when on a laptop.
Lastly, you need to start moving! With every step your body takes you stimulate parts of the brain that cause your extensor muscles to fire. But how should you start moving, and doing what?
Fitness guru Gray Cook said it best when he said “First move well, then move often.”
While there are specific exercises to help with your forward head posture, you need to first start at the basics. Just as babies learning to crawl develop their spinal curvature, the same can apply to adults. Learning how to crawl will develop proper hand eye coordination, help restore cervical curvature, and greatly improve your health. Just as Gray Cook said, you need to start with the basics. After learning the basics you can learn to properly do a deep squat, which will train your body to move well, and maintain proper spinal curvature during movements.
While I am not generally for isolated movements to work one specific area/muscle, people do respond well having something that they can do throughout the day that not only helps with postural muscles, but also is a great reminder on what proper posture should look like. Doing the I’s, T’s, and Y’s is a great exercise to do, and often tell people to do there’s I’s at work every time they get up from their chair, get a drink of water, etc.
So remember to stop the bad habits that formed the bad posture in the first place. After that you can begin at the beginning with proper movements to restore spinal curvature. And once you have learned to move well, then you can go out and move often.
As always, for any medical conditions seeing a proper physician can greatly help you with these issues also. Seeing a chiropractor, specifically one trained in Applied Kinesiology, will allow you to restore proper muscle function, relieve pain, and create the healthiest you possible.
Dr. Noah Lebowitz is a second generation Chiropractor and Applied Kinesiologist practicing in Scottsdale AZ. Dr. Lebowitz treats the chronically ill patient with fatigue, intestinal issues, depression, autoimmune conditions, etc. He also works with professional athletes (including NHL and MLB All-Stars and MVP players) and amateurs working to optimize muscle function and nutrition helping decrease injuries and increase performance.
More information can be found at www.DrNoahLebowitz.com