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Posture - why stretching is not enough

Improve your posture with lifestyle tips and maintenance acupuncture

I treat clients with all kinds of aches and pains. Most are linked to how we use our bodies in everyday life. The good news is there are simple things we can do to keep muscles and bones working well.


In this post I will explain the importance of posture and what you can do to improve it, whether you have injuries or want to prevent them.


Our bodies are capable of an amazing range of movements. Every part of the muscular-skeletal system works together with others in ‘kinetic chains’. To the surprise of some clients, my treatments include work on weak and tight points in other areas, away from the site of pain but linked to it.


The most essential part of our body’s kinetic chains is the spine. Unfortunately, modern life includes comfy sofas, sitting at desks and hunching over phones. These often cause us to develop curves in the upper and lower spine and a range of associated problems.


If left untreated, a hunched over neck and shoulders and a tilted pelvis can become very set in time. And stretching is not enough to counteract rounding of the spine, because our muscles come to permanently contract in those ‘forward flexed’ positions, while muscles in the back lengthen and weaken.


Good posture a sign of balance in the body and spine. Luckily there is plenty you can do to improve posture, reduce pain and injury risk. As well as receiving regular checkup and maintenance acupuncture, there are some simple exercises I recommend.


Start with the wall glide (or wall angel). Simply stand against a wall with heels, buttocks, shoulder blades and head touching it. This reminds your spine of good posture. You can lean back into the wall to strengthen your spinal erector muscles. And then move your arms slowly up the wall several times  to the point where you feel your elbows will come forwards. This releases and strengthens muscles around your shoulder blades.


When sitting in a chair, every now and then you can also cup your hands behind your head, move your elbows back and push back gently back with your head and forward with your hands. Work the whole spine in extended position for about 15 seconds. This is actually an isometric strength hold, not just a stretch. Avoid just loading the cervical spine. Imagine your whole spine exerting force backwards as one strong unit.

Planks are also great for core strength and posture all down the spine to the pelvis, and side planks create lateral stability and strengthen the side of the hips.

Glute bridges with a real focus on raising the pelvis as high as possible and holding the top position for a few seconds also make your whole spine strengthen against gravity.


Another exercise that benefits the glutes, core and posture at the same time is the wall sit.


If hanging out is more your thing, you can also try ‘dead hangs’ to naturally decompress the spine. They are also fantastic for grip and shoulder health.

Yoga’s salute to the sun is a great help for spine flexibility and so is the ‘cat cow’.


Going to the gym can be helpful. However, bear in mind if you do too many ‘push’ exercises for the front of the body you could make a forward hunch worse. Pull, core and back exercises create balance.


Whether at the gym or at home loaded carries with bags or kettlebells are good for posture. Carrying weights held in front of you or to the side makes deep muscles of your core work to keep the spine straight under load. The bear hug carry or goblet carry are particularly good for posture as you resist forward leaning flexion and strengthen back extension.


Be careful doing any load bearing exercise. You do need to strengthen muscles but leave that to postures where a straight neutral spine is under a load you can manage.


You can perform posture exercises daily there and there in an incidental manner, especially as breaks from sitting or using devices. Stay within your limits but challenge them a little. You need to do enough to make your body adapt, but not create strain from overdoing it.

Unfortunately cues like ‘sit up straight’ and ‘stand tall’ don’t have much lasting effect on posture. Our bodies are made for being in a variety of positions and for regular movement. It is helpful to sit with your spine above your sit bones. Ergonomic office set up is a big help, but sitting in any position for a long time is not great. If you have to, take movement breaks.


If left untouched posture imbalances can promote injuries, headaches and other kinds of referred pain. They can worsen the experience of degenerative conditions common in later life like sarcopenia, osteoporosis, arthritis, kyphosis, upper crossed syndrome, and stenosis.


Hunch or not, gravity compresses everyone’s spines over a lifetime, which is why there’s no time like the present to work on spine health.


My check up and maintenance acupuncture aims at general wellbeing. It includes muscular-skeletal health and addresses any other mind body issues you may be developing. Don’t wait until you are injured or sick!


If you want to know more or have any questions feel free to be in touch.


Yours in health,



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NM Acupuncture

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