If you spend most of your day slouched over your computer then you – like the millions of others with desk jobs – may be suffering with poor posture caused by an excessively rounded upper back.
And while we all know a hunched spine looks bad, it may surprise you to learn that it also negatively affects your health.
Rounding your back puts pressure on the rib cage and organs. This then prevents the ribs and lungs from expanding properly. This leads to shallow breathing, which studies have shown is bad for both your mental and physical wellbeing. A forward head posture caused by constantly craning your neck at your computer screen can also be harmful to the central nervous system.
Another consequence of a constantly rounded spine is a stiff thoracic (the mid-spine region). An immobile thoracic puts more pressure on other areas of the spine and is often the cause of lower back pain or neck ache.
But there is an answer to your posture woes: spine extension (back bending) and mobilisation of the thoracic spine.
Try this simple move regularly and your back will thank you for it.
Thoracic extension over a ball
A Pilates mat.
A soft ball, a mini stability ball or a Pilates “over” ball.
Come to lie on your back with your knees bent and your legs hip-width apart.
Next, take the soft ball and place it behind your mid-back. This is the space between your shoulder blades.
Interlace your fingers to make a basket and then slide them behind the base of your head. Your head is heavy (it weighs around 10 pounds!), so make sure you actually use your hands to support it.
Bring your elbows into your peripheral vision.
Your pelvis should be in a relatively neutral position. This means that your pelvis and bum is neither tucked under (so that your back is flat) nor is it duck-like and sticking out.
Take a deep, full inhale to prepare.
Then exhale slowly as you allow your shoulders, neck, head and upper spine to extend backwards over the ball. Go to the point just before your ribs pop up.
Pause while you are in the spine extension phase. Take a few breaths here and enjoy the stretch!
Exhale and slowly allow your chest area to soften.
Then start to move through your chest to bring your head, neck and shoulders back up over the ball to the starting position. It might be helpful to imagine your ribcage sliding down towards your pubic region as you do so.
Remember, this is a thoracic movement (not a neck one), so make sure the emphasis is on this part of the spine during the exercise.
Repeat 3 – 5 times. Focus on maintaining good form throughout.
Make sure you are feeling this in your upper/mid-back only; if you feel it in your lumbar spine (your lower back area) then reduce your range of movement. You can modify the exercise and reduce the range of spine extension by propping up your head with pillows.
Keep your neck and jaw relaxed the whole time.
A mobile thoracic spine. This helps create better breathing habits and will improve your posture.
Better movement of the diaphragm. A healthy diaphragm leads to more natural and efficient breathing and will also improve your pelvic floor health.
It is also great for the external obliques and abdominals.
Should be avoided by:
- People with neck pain.
- People with a disc pathology.
- People with conditions like Stenosis.
DISCLAIMER: Before participating in any exercise program that may be described and/or made accessible in or through our website, we strongly recommend that you consult with a physician or other healthcare provider.
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