When you have an injury, you need a great exam, great treatment and the right rehab exercises to get you "better, faster". After you feel better, it's time to maintain your spine. If I had to say that one of my top health concerns, long term, would be to end up stiff and stuck in a terrible posture. To avoid that, I have compiled my "top 3 posture stretches" and why they are necessary to prevent the consequences of common daily activities. Whether you sit at a desk, lean over a work bench or conveyer, turn wrenches, or take care of children, these stretches will "undo" the overused postures and maintain the underused postures. These stretches should take you 5 minutes or less, which is important in order for them to become sustainable habits with a busy schedule.
1. Foam Rolling your spine parallel and perpendicular: A foam roller is a dense foam cylinder that is 6" in diameter by 3' in length. It is slightly squishy to increase comfort over a 6" pvc pipe, but firm enough to last for years with daily use. To "foam roll" for your posture, lay on the roller face up, roller parallel to your spine, with your head at one end and your hips at the other. Spread your arms wide (palms up), relax them toward the floor and roll side to side. When the foam roller hits your shoulder blade, stop and roll to the other side. This exercise will open your chest and ribs and bring your shoulders back instead of forward like they've been all day. Second, turn the foam roller perpendicular to your spine, support the back of your head with your hands and roll from the bottom of your shoulder blades to the top of your back (not neck or low back). This exercise will open up your chest and ribs vertically. Spend 45 seconds rolling in each position. Sitting and looking down encourages your spine to slouch, while this stretch will keep it able to extend.
2. Hip Flexor Stretching: Stand in front of and put one foot up on a chair. Try to tilt your pelvis backward like your were trying to tuck your belt buckle into your belly button. With the leg that is on the floor, straighten the knee. You should feel your back flatten and the front of the hip stretch (the side where the foot is on the floor). Stretch each side for 5 DEEP breaths in duration. Sitting for longer periods shortens and tightens our hip flexors. This stretch stretches and lengthens them so we can stand easier and keep from locking up our hips in a spine damaging position. If you don't sit all day, you still sit more than you back bend, so this stretch is for everyone.
3. Forearm Flexor Stretches: Stand facing a wall. With one arm straight in front of you, point your palm at the wall and fingers toward the floor. Put a towel in between you and the wall (to prevent hand prints) and lean in so your palm gets flat against the wall. Again, hold this stretch on each side for 5 DEEP breaths. You should feel a stretch at the front of your forearm, wrist, and palm of your hand. We grip with almost all types of activities, much more than we open our hand and extend our fingers. This exercise will prevent carpal tunnel syndrome or even osteoarthritis.
Our posture is so important that research shows that poor posture in senior citizens is a major risk factor for all kinds of conditions including pneumonia, cardiovascular events, falls, broken hips and even neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia. We have videos of these stretches on our website at www.cumberlandspine.com/rehab-videos if you like visual learning. If you feel any of these stretches in the wrong place, such as feeling pain in the low back with a hip flexor stretch or a pinch on the "creased" side of the wrist, you need our help, so just give us a call before injury inevitably strikes. At Cumberland Chiropractic and Sports Medicine in our little town of Lebanon, TN, we strive to get you better, faster, and with these preventative stretches, keep you better, longer. Thanks for reading!