With back to school and the new fall work schedule quickly approaching, we are going to be finding ourselves siting at the desk a lot, and as a result we may find ourselves suffering from poor upper posture, shoulder pain and maybe even headaches. Let me introduce you to what is known as Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS): Basically, it is a poor balance between the upper back muscles, neck muscles and shoulders. The person would usually complain of tightness in the front of the shoulder and chest area, have a head that protrudes forward, and upper back muscles that feel like steel! If you find that you have some of these, listen up, I got these 3 tips for you:

Preventing Poor Posture While Working

  1. Get up and Get Something!
    Often when we are seated, we tend to sit for a long time, finish our project and start another. Take about a 1-2 minutes break every 15 minutes from sitting. Get up from your seat, stretch around, make your way to the copy room, have a snack or a glass of water, do whatever you need to do just don’t sit. When we are seated, even when we think we are sitting with a neutral posture and crunching our abs to maintain proper stability, over time, our body likes to relax and your posture goes into a slouch. Our lower and upper back rounds out, our heads tend to inch forward, and our shoulders begin to round inwards. So by getting up, it gives your body a break from that poor posture technique and give you an opportunity to reset your posture. What I like to do is have a 15 minutes timer on my watch to remind me to get up, try it!
  2. Exercise!
    Some of the exercises that I find help my patients deal with UCS is scapular retraction exercises. All I recommend is about 1 or 2 sets of 10 reps per day, and the good thing is you don’t need a monthly gym pass, just a Tensor Band. The scapular is essentially that bulky boney part that makes up the back of the shoulder. First you would grab the tensor band in both hands and place it in front of you with your arms out, then begin by stretching the band about 25% of the way out and drawing your shoulder blades (scapula) in, squeezing them ever so slightly, and then relaxing back to the starting position. This helps wakeup the rhomboid muscles and mid and lower trapezius muscles, the ones that our body likes to forget to use, especially with UCS. I carry a tensor band in my bag, or keep one in my office desk, you should too.
  3. Stretch!
    With this UCS type of posture, one of the main problems is rounding of the shoulder. We can get a lot of other problems such as shoulder impingement with this as well. Often the pectoralis minor is the main culprit here, and we should know how to effectively stretch this one out. All you would need to do is hold your arms out against a wall and turn your body away from the wall, feeling the stretch in the upper shoulder chest area. Perform this with a few seconds hold about 10 times on each side.

Now, this should give you some temporary relief from poor posture, help condition against having it and help you get through your day without having the woes of feeling stiff after work! Remember to stay fit, health and keeping moving throughout the day!

Dr. Nourus Yacoub

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