Lets face it, in this day and age, everyone is dealing with stress and arguably more than ever. Rather than solely affecting you from a chemistry standpoint ( hormonal levels, mood levels, etc), stress can dramatically impact your posture.
While people can hold stress anywhere throughout their body, an incredibly common area tends to be around the shoulders, neck and jaw region. This stress tends to elevate the shoulders, bring the head forward and moves the jaw slightly upward. This unnatural position yields an unfavorable mechanical position for your shoulders, neck and jaw and can lead to headaches, migraines, shoulder pain and much more. In fact, poor posture is so common with TMJ or jaw pain that it is usually the first remedied impairment when working with a physical therapist. The question is, what can you do about it on your own? Answer? Try out this innovative stretch for an active way of improving your poor posture.
Active Stretching – When people become stressed, their muscle tension increases and they become guarded. Try out this stretch that combats all faulty positions secondary to stress.
- First, find a seated position. Take a moment to scan the tension in your body and see if you can’t relax your muscles around the shoulders and neck by simply thinking it through.
- Then, reach down with both arms toward the ground and slightly behind you. Pretend you’re looking to grab something on the ground and extend with your arms as far as possible yet while being comfortable.
- Extend the spine, meaning, try to sit up as tall as possible and “show off your chest.” This will stretch the muscles in the front and help you squeeze through the important postural muscles.
- Bring you chin towards your lower neck or Adam’s apple. Think about if there were a pencil underneath your chin that you are squeezing it between your neck and your chin.
- Incorporate a breathing pattern with this stretch. I prefer to inhale through the stomach and exhale as I reach down toward the ground. This engaged stomach breathing incorporates the diaphragm, our primary breather. The diaphragm actually serves as a gateway to our parasympathetic system, meaning it helps you out of the anxious state and into a more relaxed state.
- This whole process should take anywhere from 3-5 seconds. The inhalation should take around 1-2 seconds while the exhalation should take 3-4 seconds. Make sure to get a good, hard squeeze with the muscles to get the best stretch!
Take Home Points
Stress can be both good and bad for our body. However, it seems more and more people are experiencing the bad type of stress and it is inadvertently negatively affecting our posture. Posture is our foundation and needs to be respected. To combat the stressful postural state, engage in the exercise described above. It will help reverse the negative postural state you’re in by engaging in postural muscles, stretching out tight muscles, improve in your breathing pattern, and loosen up accessory breathing muscles that often become too tight.
Try this exercise out either as needed, or routinely. Suggested 4 x every 4 hours, 2 x a day!
About the Author
Dr. Chad Kuntz, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS, CISSN, TPI-1 is the founder of Pr1me Movement, located in Charlotte, North Carolina who believes in reaching out into the communities to help decrease or stop the pain before it starts!
Phone Number: 704-835-0831
Address: 601 N Polk Street, Pineville, NC 28134
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