We’ve all been there at some point or another. After a long day at the office or taking care of the kids, our bodies ache. We’re talking about neck or shoulder pain, upper or lower back pain, even pain in our arms and legs. Instead of grumbling and suffering through it all, consider thinking about these discomforts as helpful sources of information. Your body is trying to tell you something, and it’s about time you listened. These pains could be your body’s way of not-so-politely asking you to improve your posture! Poor posture can exact a heavy toll on you. It can come from slouching and slumping as you walk or sit at your desk, or carrying imbalanced loads like when you pick up your baby, heavy purse, or half a trunk’s worth of grocery bags with one hand.
While the physical effects of poor posture are more obvious, it can also be a factor in self-confidence, and how we are perceived in social settings. Our body language, or the way we move our bodies when we communicate, adds an important subtext to any conversation. Poor posture is associated with non-verbal communication of weakness. This can be both projected outwards to the people in the social setting, and can end up reinforcing an internal idea of poor self-esteem, as well. On the flip side, improving your posture and training your body to sit and stand in positions that project strength also builds up the internal message that you are strong and confident. (We recommend checking out Amy Cuddy’s TED talk entitled “Your body language shapes who you are” for more on this.)
There are many exercises and stretches that are targeted to improving posture. As a rule, these include loosening and/or strengthening specific muscle areas. Fitness classes such as Pilates and yoga are highly effective for improving posture, although there are also approaches you can do from the comfort of your own home, or while you’re sitting in your office chair. You might even find that switching the very chair upon which you sit can improve your posture and alleviate pain and discomfort; you’d be surprised how much damage can be associated with the repetitive “bad decisions” that our body is forced to make on a daily basis when we’re simply sitting in the wrong kind of chair. This solution could mean anything from simply changing the height of your seat and/or armrests, to switching to a more ergonomic chair with more lumbar support, to ditching the traditional chair entirely, and sitting on a medicine ball! As everyone has different physical strengths and limitations, it’s important to speak to your doctor before you make any drastic changes or start a new exercise regimen
Making a change doesn’t have to be all work and no play, of course. Along the way, therapeutic massage can do wonders to treat lingering muscle aches and pains that come as a result of poor posture and the associated muscle soreness and weakness. Combine this with some of the other suggestions listed above and you’ll be on your way to feeling healthier, stronger, and more confident (and relaxed!) in no time.