Back to School: 3 Tips to Avoid Posture Pain and Discomfort

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Summer is nearing the end and that means so long to summertime hiking, biking and swimming, and hello to back to school book reading, screen staring and desk sitting. In the classroom, proper posture can be difficult to maintain. Heavy backpacks, sitting for long periods of time and hunching over computers can all take a toll after a while. Not surprisingly, the harmful effects of poor posture and strength can lead to more serious aches and pains down the road.

Next time you sit down at your desk consider this: Your head carries the most important organ in your body—your brain. The human head weighs on average between 10-11 lbs (that’s the size of a heavy bowling ball!) so it’s important to make sure the head and neck are supported throughout the day in order to avoid pain and dysfunction. The neck is comprised of vertebra, muscles, ligaments, arteries and nerves and it needs to be strong and adaptable to carry that weight around all day long.

Keep these quick tips in mind to ensure that you maintain proper posture throughout the school year. The greater focus placed on strengthening and activating these muscles, the easier it will be for these good postural habits to become second nature!

Tip #1:

When sitting, try to keep your feet on the ground. This keeps your lower back and core in a good position to avoid stress and pressure along the rest of the spine.

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Tip #2:

Keep computer screens and reading materials in front of, and level with your eyes. This will help you avoid prolonged bending at the neck as well as reduce eye strain and potential for headaches.

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Tip #3:

Position your shoulders in a comfortable resting place when working at a desk or chair with arms. If it feels like your shoulders are up in your ears, that can put a lot of stress on your neck and potentially create problems down the road.

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Making these small adjustments in the classroom can be simple and effective. Postural changes can help you avoid injury but remember that sitting posture comes from the combination of muscle strength and activation. If you have any questions, please come see one of our skilled physical therapists so they can better examine you and get you on your way to a successful start of the school year!

Initial Core Stabilization Exercises

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No matter what sort of physical activities you engage in, a solid core is essential for staying strong and injury-free. Core stabilization exercises teach your muscles to work together, allowing your body to move efficiently no matter what you’re doing.

The following exercises are a great starting point for any sort of core-training program as they target the transverse abdominis (TA), which is the deepest core muscle that we have. A good way to think about core stabilization is that it works from the inside out. If the transverse abdominis is not functioning properly, it can be overridden by a lot of other muscles. Concentrating on, and isolating the TA is a good way to ensure that our trunk is stabilized for whatever movements we’re doing with our extremities.

Practice these exercises for 1-2 minutes each, once per day and take breaks when needed. Do your best to keep your mind focused on what your body is doing throughout.

Core Strengthening Exercises Transverse Abdominis

Transverse Abdominis (TA)

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Find your “neutral spine” by rocking your pelvis forward and backward and stopping in the middle of the two positions. Gently draw your belly button towards your spine like you’re trying to fit into a tight pair of pants. Breathe normally. Hold this contraction for 3 breaths, relax, and repeat. There should be no pelvic movement during this contraction.

Core Exercises Transverse Abdominis Marching

TA Marching

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Find your neutral spine and TA contraction. Breathe normally. While holding this contraction, slowly raise one foot a few inches from the floor and place it back on the floor. Repeat this, alternating legs for 1 minute.

Core Exercises 90 90 Hold

90/90 Hold

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Find your neutral spine and TA contraction. Bring one leg at a time up to a 90/90 position. Hold this position without your abdomen “bulging” towards the ceiling. Breathe normally. Hold for 10 seconds, relax, and repeat.

Core Exercises Quadruped Plank

Quadruped Plank

On all fours, with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips with toes tucked under, find your neutral spine and TA contraction. Breathe normally. Maintaining this position, lift your knees to a hover. Hold for 10 seconds, relax, and repeat.

These exercises can be a great assessment of how well you’re able to activate these muscles. Keep in mind that this is just a starting point and a good core-training program should not stop here. Your Physical Therapist will progress you as they see fit or as your abilities allow. If you have questions or if you have any pain with these exercises, please consult a Therapydia physical therapist.