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Three exercises to improve your posture and ergonomics

Three exercises that can help with your posture and ergonomics are open books, scapular retractions, and neck retractions or chin tucks.

Whether you are home because of COVID-19 or a regular teleworker, ergonomics is just as important as it is at your Washington, DC area office. However when the couch or bed is nearby, many of us forget how important following a physical therapy exercise program can be to our ergonomic happiness.

Posture and desk set up are very important when trying to decrease strain and pain into your neck, low back, shoulders and hips. Typically these are the role of an ergonomics specialist physical therapist at your Washington, DC office, often outsourced through human resources. At home we may not have this support and bad habits we develop at our offices become worse at home.

Ideally, if someone were to look at you from the side, the center of your ear should be over the center of your shoulder which is over the center of your hip. This creates a line column of support in your head, neck, shoulders, spine and through your hips to relieve tension and keep your body feeling better.

If your set up at home does not look like this, for instance if you are sitting slouched on the couch or in bed, then increased stress is placed into the joints and muscles. In a slouched position, your head competes against gravity rather than sitting on top of your shoulders. This leads to increased strain in the joints and overuse of the muscles in the back of neck and upper shoulders.

Three posture exercises for better posture

These three exercises can help put you in a better position and prime you to engage the proper muscles to decrease pain.

  1. Open book stretch

For the open book stretch, lie on one side and make sure to bend your hips and knees at 90 degrees. This will make sure that you are not rotating your lower back; avoiding rotating your lower back helps to isolate and accentuates thoracic rotation, which is the cause of many posture problems. Bring your arms straight into a 90 degree position of whatever side you are lying on. Bring your hand together and gently rotate with your arm and torso until you feel a stretch across your chest and/or your upper to the mid-back. Hold that position for approximately 10 seconds and repeat this stretch for two to three minutes on each side.

  1. Resisted external shoulder rotations or Scapular retractions

This motion consists of pinching the shoulder blades (scapula) together as if you were going to squeeze a pencil or finger placed between them in the center of your back. Place the band in your hands and raise your arms to about shoulder height. Relax the band, then create tension by squeezing the shoulder blades without shrugging your shoulders. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps in a session or as part of your warm up.

  1. Neck retractions

Assume a start position, whether sitting, standing or lying prone. Gently tuck your chin down toward your neck without jamming it toward your chest in a way that creates alignment but not a maximal position. Keeping your chin where it is, press your head back in a diagonal direction as though you are moving your head both backwards and up toward the ceiling. Feel the stretch at the back of your neck. Relax and repeat. If you are experiencing discomfort, try doing cervical retraction as many as 8-10 times, performing 3-4 sessions a day.

Together these exercises address mobility and stability of the shoulders and neck helping to minimize pain and put you in a better position to work. If you are still having nagging pain, give Rose PT a call so we are able to fully assess the root of the pain!

Rose Physical Therapy is here in Washington, DC to help!

Physical therapists at Rose in Washington, DC are ergonomic experts. We have helped everyone from office workers, to teleworkers, to a large number of embassy personnel from other countries. If you have questions about ergonomics, please schedule an appointment at either our downtown Washington, DC office or our office in Navy Yard near Capitol Hill to begin your therapy quickly. Please be sure to emphasize any symptoms and whether you are interested in receiving ergonomics advice, and we’ll get you on the road to recovery as soon as possible!