Poor posture is the source of a lot of pain and body aches. A few incidents of poor posture may lead to some pain, but several days, months and years of bad posture may actually change the alignment of your spine and the muscles in your body. This dysfunctional alignment leads to chronic pain. If you have poor posture, you should consider trying Tai Chi. Tai Chi improves posture.
Have you noticed that a lot of older adults look like they are constantly slouched forward? Their necks are forward, shoulders are rounded and they may even have a small hump on the back of their necks. You have a natural curve in your neck, but poor posture can actually cause the vertebrae in your neck to rearrange in an unnatural curve. Your muscles are actually powerful enough to pull these bones and cause a hump in your neck! This leads to chronic pain because your muscles are working harder and incorrectly. Your bones may also push against areas of your body they shouldn’t be pushing on. Also, you will end up putting weight on your discs and compressing them.
So, you should definitely do some Tai Chi to correct your posture. These are a few movement cues from Tai Chi that address posture:
Correcting Posture from the Core rather than the Extremities
“Think of your core as anything other than your arms and legs.” All of your movements should originate from your core. A strong and balanced core leads to good posture. If you look at how children move compared to older adults, they spring forward from their core to propel their limbs. In contrast, older adults tend to rely on power from our extremities and our shoulders and hip joints. That places unnecessary stress on those areas, leading to chronic pain and damage.
Lifting from the Rib Cage
Putting or pulling your shoulders back causes an unnatural arch in the lower thoracic and lumbar spine. It also causes a shallow breathing pattern. Lifting the rib cage allows the Thoracic spine to extend for a more stacked posture and a more full and stabilizing breath.
Gently Seat the Scapula Back and Down
This stabilizes the lifting of the ribcage, the cervical thoracic junction and extension of the Cervical spine. This will give the effect of the shoulders being back but the correction comes from the core not the extremities. This also has the effect of causing you to widen and stabilize through the collar bone, which supports posture and breath.
Gently pull back just under the rib cage, around the belly button
This will more fully engage the deep core stabilizers and further stabilize the extension of the trunk. Do not pull in the lower abdominal muscles as this is not sustainable or effective and does not support a good breathing pattern. When you engage the correct muscles, the pelvic floor will kick in and help to support the bottom of the core.
Reach long through the back of the neck.
This cue will usually cause you to stick your chin out and lengthen through the front of the neck causing hyperextension and compression of the cervical spine. With the scapula seated gently down and back and the muscles of the neck extending oppositional energy is created that stabilizes the head over the shoulders.
If you have poor posture, it may not be too late to make a positive change. Just like you taught your body to engage in dysfunctional positions, you can retrain your body to correct the mistakes. In fact, exercise may be the first recommendation made to someone who is bent over, hunched forward or even has developed a hump on his/her back of the head. Consider working with a Tai Chi professional to address your postural concerns. As always, check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough and to address any underlying causes of your pain and posture.
Exercises for a Hump on Your Neck
Faith Overton, PTA