Correct healthy posture is where the body is held in its natural balanced position. In such posture there is the least amount of strain on the body from gravity.
According to The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) good standing posture is alignment of the ear, shoulder, hip, and ankle from the side. In a seated position, the head should be erect and the spine should maintain the three natural curves. From the back the spine should be straight.
Deviations from a healthy posture have been categorised into various types and syndromes. For this article I will write about Cervical Postural Syndrome (also termed Kyphosis, Upper Crossed Syndrome or hunched back).
Cervical Postural Syndrome
Cervical postural syndrome is characterised by a protruding chin, rounded shoulders, and an increase in the curvature of the upper back. The condition is caused by adopting poor posture over a prolonged period of time. It’s particularly common in people who sit at a desk, computer or steering wheel for much of their day. Common symptoms include burning or aching across the neck and shoulders and may lead to headaches or even chest pain.
So what’s going on under the skin?
Typically with Cervical Postural Syndrome the muscles at the back of the neck are too tight along with the muscles in the chest. The muscles in the front of the neck and mid back have weakened. The change in the natural shape of the spine results in stress on the cervical and thoracic spinal joints leading to misaligned/fixated joints and consequently nerve irritation.
So how is it helped?
First awareness of correct posture is most important. As with most muscle and joint conditions correcting the cause will result in more long term relief. For those people who experience symptoms sitting at a desk, it’s vital they improve the ergonomics of their work station (Click here to download a copy of our work station set up guide). Also if you sit for long periods take frequent breaks.
Correcting misaligned/fixated spinal joints with adjustments or mobilisation gives the spine flexibility allowing it to return to a more natural shape. Stretches are prescribed to address the tight muscle groups along with strengthening exercises for the weakened muscles. However, we all know, old habits don’t die hard. The slumped posture is likely to creep back when symptoms have resolved. We therefore recommend continuing with an exercise routine. Efforts to break poor posture habits. And adjustments to maintain a healthy spine.
A good exercise for relief from cervical postural syndrome is the Brugger exercise demonstarated in this short youtube clip!