Since you ended up on this page, I bet you have read about the importance of good posture for your body and health.
But, if good posture is so healthy then why does sitting up straight etc. feels uncomfortable or even hurt?
The truth is correcting posture causes pain and uncomfortableness initially because the muscles are too weak to maintain the posture.
Luckily, it is not a permanent thing and if you do various exercises and learn to be more mindful of your posture you will speed things up.
The end goal is of course that having good posture should feel good and NOT cause pain or uncomfortableness.
Neck And Back Hurt After A Short While?
Those suffering from back pain often blame “bad posture” as the problem. A common assumption is that a chiropractic adjustment and/or sitting up straight for as long as possible resolves the issue.
What actually happens is after a short while e.g. 10 – 20 minutes, the muscles get tired and ache. At this point, most people return to slouching.
You could say that “weak posture” rather than “bad posture” is a better term to use because it describes the issue better (at least for most people).
Sitting up straight and maintaining good posture simply feels uncomfortable in the beginning because the muscles are not strong enough to maintain it.
It is really not a big mystery. You can think about something like doing a new exercise or a movement and how quickly it results in tiredness and ultimately pain if you keep at it. Similarly, practicing good posture is going to be uncomfortable in the beginning.
Fortunately, a combination of exercises to strengthen the back muscles, as well as being mindful of your posture and adopting good postural habits will eventually eliminate any uncomfortableness and pain.
The key is to start out light and make slow but steady progress. If it becomes painful to maintain a posture you should have a break.
There are some products that offer great assistance with maintaining good posture. There are two American companies that have some of the best products. You can read more about them here.
Common Posture Mistakes And Easy Fixes
Maintaining strong posture, much like regular exercise, is a lifestyle. In fact, there are several common and damaging postural habits that can negatively affect your body alignment.
It may surprise you to know that these seemingly harmless habits can cause several medical issues including joint pain, decreased functionality of both internal organs (especially lungs and digestive tract) and the muscles as well as tightened ligaments, hamstrings and back muscles.
These issues can greatly affect your quality of life! Your digestion and breathing suffers and so does your ability to exercise properly.
Over time, weak posture can push the chest cavity inwards, which leads to several cardiovascular and circulatory problems.
So, what exactly are these terrible habits that lead to a weak posture? I find that some common bad habits that you probably have are:
- Leaning your head forward
- Hunching over while sitting
- Forgetting to take regular breaks from sitting down e.g. at work (causing anterior pelvic tilt)
- Using one side more than the other, e.g. dominant use of one arm or putting more pressure on one leg.
Note: The dominant use of one arm can cause one shoulder to roll more forward than the other.
You can read more about bad postural habits here. Luckily, each of these bad habits mentioned above can be corrected with the following exercises.
Leaning The Head Forward Or “Text Neck”(Forward Head Posture)
When hunching over your laptop, your head may tend to lean forward leading to bad/weak posture. A similar problem is using a mobile phone for long periods of time, also known as “text neck”.
To correct forward head posture, try exercises that strengthen the upper back, neck and rear shoulder.
Chest stretches and neck posture drills are most effective in remedying a hunched back. Exercises to correct forward head posture are:
- Gently lengthening the neck upwards while tucking in the chin
- Seated rows in the gym or pull-ups
- Chest stretch
Here is how to do a chest strecth:
Stand in a doorway with one foot in front of the other. Bend the elbows at a 90-degree angle placing your forearms on each side of the doorway. Put your weight on your front leg by leaning forward, until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold for 15 seconds. Relax and return to starting position. Repeat 10 more times.
You can read more about how long time it takes to correct this less attractive head posture here.
Slouching While Sitting
To help correct a slouching posture, the best exercises are those that strengthen the core and buttocks muscles. This, in addition to back extensions, will help you sit up straight without discomfort.
Exercises to correct a slumping posture are:
Lie on your back, with your arms at your sides. Bend your knees and bring your ankles as close to your buttocks as possible. Lift your hips to the ceiling, keeping your knees and thighs parallel. Hold the pose for five full breaths and repeat. Perform this exercise in reps of 10.
Lie on your stomach with your arms out in front of you. Engage your abs as though you are trying to create space between your stomach and the floor. Lift your left arm and right leg about one inch off the floor and stretch out as much as possible.
Hold this position for 5 full breaths and repeat with your right arm and left leg. Continue alternating sides until you complete a set of 10.
Lie on your stomach and place your hands by your shoulders as though you are about to do a push-up. Ground the toes into the floor and engage the glutes to stabilize your body.
Lift up by pushing down on the floor with the palms of your hands. Maintain a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold the position for 20 seconds.
Sticking Out Your Bottom Or Anterior Pelvic Tilt
High heels, belly fat, and pregnancy can all contribute to ‘Donald Duck’ posture. However, one major culprit is most likely the many hours you spend sitting down every day.
To remedy your standing posture, imagine a string attached to the top of your head pulling you to the sky. Correct body alignment maintains the spine’s natural curvature, with a straight neck and shoulders parallel to the hips.
Make sure to keep the shoulders back yet relaxed and engage your abs. Keep your feet hip distance apart and balance your weight evenly on both feet. Keep your head fixed and neutral. Keep your legs straight, but knees relaxed.
Exercises to correct a “Donald Duck” posture are:
Side-lying leg raises
Lie on your right side with your legs extended and on top of one another. Prop your head up with the palm of your right hand.
Without bending your knees, lift the left leg up as far as possible. Hold for 3 seconds and lower it again. Repeat until you complete a set and alternate sides.
Hip flexor stretches
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes facing forward. Bend your right knee, and bring your right heel up towards your buttocks.
Hold your right foot with the right hand, and gently pull. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
Anterior pelvic tilt is a very common thing, and although some experts argue that having a slight tilt is natural if it becomes too excessive it does not only look bad (duck butt + appear fatter) but can also cause lower back pain, knee pain, and ankle pain.
There is a very popular exercise program to fix this problem which I have reviewed here.
One-legged Standing Or Leaning On One Leg
Muscle imbalances develop around the pelvic area over time, straining the lower back and buttocks.
Parents carrying toddlers on one side, carrying heavy backpacks on one shoulder and leaning on one leg lead to uneven hips.
To correct this, make sure to stand with your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Exercises to strengthen the core muscles and buttocks will help correct uneven hips:
- Side-lying leg raises
You can check out this illustrated article from NHS.uk for more information.