The most common reason people visit a chiropractic office is pain. Whether it is neck pain, lower back pain or headaches, pain is generally the driving force for someone to finally see a chiropractor. In my experience, patients rarely know what caused their pain to begin. They usually just wake up with pain, or bent over to pick something off the ground and their back “went out.” Sometimes the pain has just gradually built over time with no real cause that they can think of. The times when pain is the result of a trauma, such as a car accident or a fall, are far less common than when “the pain just came out of nowhere.”
In today’s society, posture is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. We now spend more time sitting in front of computers at work, sitting on the couch and watching TV at home, or surfing the internet on our smart phone than ever before. Our bodies were not made for this type of lifestyle. In my opinion, this is the reason more and more people are suffering from neck and lower back pain. Pain just doesn’t appear out of nowhere, but poor posture over time can lead to these problems. In this blog post, I’ll give you simple things that you can do at home to help improve your posture, relieve pain and supplement your chiropractic care.
The single most important thing that you can do to help improve your posture is to start doing posture exercises on a regular basis. Ideally, performing posture exercises daily is best, but three times a week should be enough for you to notice a difference in your posture over time. You’ll have to stick to them though. It’s like going to the gym, you can’t lift weights once and expect to look like a bodybuilder, right? Similarly, just doing posture exercises once or twice isn’t going to make a big difference. Think about how many hours you sit in front of a computer at work, or how much time you spend on your phone. It will take time to make corrections to posture, but with consistent work, it can be done.
Our website is full of exercises and things that you can do to help improve your posture. A good place to start is with our Level 1 Exercises that can be found here: www.westhoustonchiropractor.com/level1 The seated posture routine is a great way to start strengthening the postural muscles in your neck and upper back, get you sitting up straighter and help start undoing all of those hours you spend seated at your desk. Once you have consistently been performing these exercises, we can add in lower back and core strengthening exercises that will also help improve posture, but help relieve lower back pain as well.
When looking at a lateral cervical x-ray, or a side view of the neck, there should be a C-shaped curve that measures between 30-35 degrees. However, when I take this x-ray on patients in my office, I often find that this curve is less than 10 degrees, or even worse, a negative measurement! In almost all cases, this decreased normal curve is not the result of a trauma, such as a car accident or fall, but is usually due to poor posture over time. Almost everything we do on a daily basis negatively affects our normal cervical curve. We sit for 8-10 hours a day staring at a computer screen at work, we look down at our smart phones when we aren’t sitting at a computer, and then when we go to bed we sleep in improper positions. All of this contributes to poor posture.
In order to improve posture and start to rebuild this curve of the neck, I recommend all of my patients use a neck wedge, in addition to regular posture exercises. The neck wedge is not a pillow, so you do not sleep on it, but we have seen that patients that use the neck wedge on a consistent basis, about 15 minutes per day, can rebuild their cervical curve over time. The neck wedge works by reversing all of our daily activities. It teaches you to bring your head back, instead of leaning forward, thus improving your posture. Not only is the neck wedge great to help improve posture, but it also helps relieve neck pain and headaches as well. Directions on how to use the neck wedge can be found at the link mentioned above, and you can buy one during your next visit to our office.
Foam Rollers and Lacrosse Balls
When we have poor posture, our joints and muscles tend to get locked up. While chiropractic adjustments are a great way to help keep your joints moving properly, foam rollers and lacrosse balls can help loosen up your muscles. If you have poor posture, there is a good chance that you also have numerous “knots” or trigger points in the muscles of your neck and upper back. These trigger points are formed when fascia, the tissue that surrounds and connects our muscles, becomes irritated and “knots” up. These trigger points are usually very tender to the touch.
Foam rolling is a great way to help relax the fascia and relieve trigger points. The theory is that by rolling over the trigger point, the fascia and muscle tissue is relaxed and can return to its normal state. A foam roller is especially beneficial for large muscles such as the gluteal muscles or hamstrings. A lacrosse ball works the same way, but is smaller so it works better between the shoulder blades and into the neck. I recommend almost all of my patients to use foam rollers and lacrosse balls to help eliminate pain and improve posture. Here’s a tip: when using either a foam roller or a lacrosse ball, find the area that it hurts to work on, stay there for about 30 seconds, and you should notice that the pain greatly reduces. You can find videos on how to foam roll on our website at: www.westhoustonchiropractor.com/level2
I hope this blog post has been helpful in giving you some things to do at home to help improve your posture. But don’t forget, regular chiropractic adjustments are also important to make sure your spine is aligned correctly and moving properly. Regular adjustments and the above recommendations will help improve your posture and keep you feeling great!