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Are you bent out of shape over aches and pains? Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer and Muscle Activation Techniques® Specialist Paul Mossa shares the most common causes and effects of poor posture and how to achieve better alignment throughout your body.
Poor posture can be caused by muscular imbalances. Mossa describes a muscular imbalance as having more or less tension in a muscle which then affects its length and ability to extend and contract properly. When one muscle tightens it is typically caused by an opposing weak muscle. This combination of a weak muscle on one side of the body and a tight muscle on the other begins to force the rest of the body to move in the direction of the tightness and away from correct posture to protect the weak muscle.
Those who work sedentary jobs requiring them to sit for long periods of time at a computer or even in a car are prone to have poor posture. “Our bodies naturally want to slouch and lean forward rather than stand tall and straight,” says Mossa. “This is mainly due to gravity pulling the shoulders and neck forward and the fact it requires less effort to slouch instead of working against gravity.” Many people are not even aware they have poor posture until they begin experiencing the common side effects of their bodies being out of alignment.
Side effects of slouching
When the body is out of alignment, extra unnecessary stress and strain is placed on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and bones. This most often leads to pain, tightness and fatigue throughout the body, notably in the neck, shoulders and back. Poor posture can gradually begin to limit the body’s ranges of motion and even cause headaches and digestive problems.
Key players for good posture
“To achieve good posture you must first understand the specific muscles that aid in holding you upright,” says Mossa. “Each of these key muscles must be stretched and strengthened in order to maintain pain-free proper posture.”
Mossa explains how the flexor muscles located in the front of the neck and the extensor muscles on the back of the lower neck are responsible for pulling your head back over your body to prevent forward head posture. The rhomboids, mid-trapezius and lower-trapezius muscles help pull your shoulders back to bring your upper torso into alignment with the rest of your body. Your leg extensor muscles, including your glutes and hamstrings, keep your lower back and hips in alignment so your lower trunk doesn’t move too far forward.
For those who work desk jobs, Mossa recommends taking a break from sitting every 30-45 minutes if possible. “Standing up and moving around is a great way to relieve your body of the stress and tension from sitting for too long,” says Mossa. “The next best thing to do is to perform a few stretches to ease tight and tired muscles.”
Check out this video for four easy stretches you can do at your desk to loosen up your muscles and straighten up your posture.
Focus on stretching out the chest as tight chest muscles are a common culprit for pulling the shoulders forward and causing neck and back pain. Then perform upper- and mid-back activation exercises to strengthen the weak muscles that are causing misalignment. Mossa says you can see results and experience pain relief immediately after performing these exercises. However, he recommends performing three to four times per week in order to maintain the results and experience the benefits of corrected posture.
MAT for muscle imbalances
Muscle Activation Techniques® (MAT) is a non-invasive approach to identify and correct muscular imbalances and limitations in range of motion that contribute to pain and injury to the body. MAT serves as an ideal way to identify and strengthen weak muscles contributing to poor posture and pain. Once weak areas are identified, muscles are tested for strength and stability to achieve full range of motion and balance throughout the body to:
• Help the body function better
• Improve range of motion
• Increase strength and stability within range of motion
For anyone who deals with pre-existing or current pain, tightness or poor movement patterns, MAT might be a viable option for you. Keep in mind MAT needs to be performed by a certified MAT specialist. Your specialist will work with you to identify weak areas of the body and prescribe corrective exercises that can be performed/completed at home or in the gym to help improve your posture.
For more information about MAT or to schedule a session with a Professional Fitness Trainer, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com or call 972.233.4832.