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Natural Awakenings Boston

Three Steps to Better Posture and Less Pain

Aug 30, 2012 12:40PM ● By By Barbara Gosselin

Sit up straight,” and “Don’t slouch,” are messages that many people hear throughout their lives. Unfortunately, this may cause them to judge their own posture as“bad” and chalk it up to laziness or another character flaw.The truth is that posture is simply the relationship of a person’s body to gravity, reflecting areas that are tight or weak due to years of physical and even emotional stress and strain.

The western lifestyle involves a lot of sitting, which creates some common physical patterns. Over time, the muscles in the front of the hips (the hip flexors) can get very tight, placing a lot of strain on the low back. In addition, the head tends to migrate forward on the neck, resulting in tightness in the chest and neck and creating the rounded shoulders associated with “bad” posture. These tensions can lead to postural strain syndrome, in which ligaments and other soft tissues are overstretched, causing pain. Chronic back or neck pain, shoulder tendinitis and even hip arthritis can be traced to this syndrome.

The good news is that some very simple things can be done to promote good posture, decrease strain on the body, and reduce the pain associated with postural stresses. Here are three easy and important exercises to try:

1.      Lie flat on the back with arms resting overhead and no pillow under the head for 5 to 10 minutes. This helps to release the tightness that can accumulate in the neck and chest throughout the day. While thispose can easily be done at night when settling in for bed, do not to attempt to sleep like this. If pre-existing tightness makes it impossible to lie without a pillow, use small pillows to support the head or arms, gradually decreasing the height of the pillows until they are no longer needed.

2.      Bruegger’sManeuver consists of letting the arms hang down and rotating them outward, elbows straight, so that the thumbs are pointing toward the back.Gently squeeze the shoulder blades together and drawthem downward.  Hold this position for 3 or 4 breaths, repeating it several times throughout the day. This helps to manage chest tightness and shoulder weakness that can contribute to neck pain and shoulder dysfunction.

3.      Stretching the hip flexors is the third important step in supporting good posture. Stand next to a stable surface with one hand resting on that surface. Step one foot forward into a wide but comfortable stance. Let the back heel come off the ground and keep the back knee slightly bent. Bend the front knee and lower the back knee toward the ground, gently stretching the front of the hip.Hold the stretch for 3 or 4 breaths and repeat 2 to 3 times before stretching the other hip.

Barbara Gosselin, PT, practices Holistic Bodywork and Craniosacral Therapy at 393 Mass. Ave. in Arlington. For more information call 781-507-4226, or visit

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