At some point during segment 2 of the exercise series I posted last week, the term pain posture was mentioned. I was curious what they meant because I have been wondering about my posture lately. During my tai-chi class, the instructor has pointed out to me multiple times that I need to relax my chest. Apparently I carry tension in my chest. I thought this was due to shallow breathing (asthma and/or anxiety), but it could also have something to do with my posture, which could also have something to do with pain.
The term “pain posture” refers to the way people with chronic pain protectively tense up the front of the body, curling it forward, into a fetal like position. This curling in, tends to become a permanent way of carrying your body as time goes on with chronic pain. Pain posture can make pain worse and it can put stress on other parts of your body that didn’t hurt before.
I also recently ran across a study showing that the majority of those with fibromyalgia suffer with what is called Straight Neck. A straightened neck is basically a loss of typical curve in the neck that helps supports the weight of the head and provides shock absorption for the spinal column in the neck.
The normal neck curve is called a lordotic curvature. In the study, one rheumatology practice demonstrated that 90% of their FM patients had a straight neck. There were varying degrees of loss of the lordotic curve, but none of the patients had a normal curve. The study concluded that straight neck in fibromyalgia patients may help in diagnosis and be important in understanding the disease. I don’t know if I have a straight neck, but corrective neck extension exercises can be done with a chiropractor to improve the condition.
Straight necks are often accompanied by a forward head posture. Forward head position is apparently very common these days with our mobile devices use having us hunched over screens reading, texting or watching. Our heads tilt down and forward and our shoulders naturally curl in.
Interesting Fact: For every inch that the head moves forward in posture, it increases the weight of the head on the neck by 10 pounds! A forward neck position of 3 inches increases the weight of the head on the neck by 30 pounds and the pressure put on the muscles increases 6 times.
Poor neck posture, or poor posture in general can lead to pain, fatigue, sleep problems and other health issues. You can correct forward head position by retraining the muscles that hold up your head through exercises.
Here are a few links I found useful:
Make sure you ease in to them slowly, I made the mistake of trying a bunch one morning and suffered the rest of the day. After doing it for a few days, I find it is becoming a habit to check my posture and then gently relaxing my shoulders and putting my head back where it belongs. I am hopeful that by improving my posture, I can reduce pain and fatigue in my neck, shoulders and lower back.
Check yourself in the mirror. Is your head in a forward position?