Day: June 8, 2010

Alleviate Your Computer Posture Discomfort

Repeatedly during the course of a massage, I have raked muscles between the scapula and thoracic spine and found them to be hard, tight and painful to the client who immediately pleads with me to work right there – that’s where they want me to provide them with relief. Unfortunately, it’s out of my hands, literally! Why? These muscles are typically stretched tight (like a rubber band) because they are weak; they are under tensile stress, and losing the battle against gravity. Most massage practitioners will agree that all the manipulating in the world will not relieve these muscles: they remain just as tight and painful at the end of the massage. It might feel good (or painful) to have them worked on but this is only palliative. The real solution to your discomfort is to strengthen these muscles yourself.You will learn five strengthening exercises that can banish your discomfort and/or improve your posture for these specific areas:

  1. Neck (Forward Head Posture)
  2. Upper Traps (Tensile Stress)
  3. Mid Traps (Tensile Stress; “Rounded Shoulders” or Forward Shoulder Posture)
  4. Descending Traps (Shoulders curled Forward/Down)
  5. Thoracic Erectors (“Slump” or excessive Kyphotic Curve in Thoracic Spine)

A great witticism that I’ve grown fond of is this: “Nobody likes to drink out of a fire hose.” That’s what’s so great about these exercises: no 3 sets of 30 reps etc. Each one can be done using your body weight, just ONE time, for as long as you can hold it (to fatigue). I’d prefer you do them nightly, right before bed, but you can also do them in your office chair and/or on the carpet if necessary.

Computer Posture Exercises:
Shoulder Shrug (targets shoulder tension)
Lift shoulders as high as you can (arms hanging down). They should reach almost as high as your earlobes. Contract your shoulder muscles as hard as you can – so hard they tremble. Keep lifting/trembling for 20 –30 seconds. Now lower the shoulders slowly –dropping them too quickly can trigger spasm.

Forward Bend vs. Neck Extension (targets neck tension)
Perform a forward bend. Keeping knees straight, lace fingers together and extend arms over your back/head as far as possible. Now, without changing your position, lift your head back in opposition. (The tendency is to let arms down / back up as your head comes up.) Pit these two actions against each other in an isometric contraction for 20 seconds, then bend your knees, and return to standing (slowly).

Superman (targets longitudinal tension between your shoulder blades)
(Caused by descending fibers of the trapezius being weak and overstretched). It combats scapulae curling forward and down. Lying face-down and resting forehead on the floor, place arms in front of head. Upper arms should be at a 45 degree angle, elbows bent and forearms pointing straight forward. Lift arms off the floor and hold them in this position until you can’t anymore.

Iron Cross (targets tension across the top of the shoulder blades)
(Named after the gymnastic feat performed on the rings.) Targets tension across the top of your shoulder blades caused by weak, overstretched mid-fibers of the trapezius. It prevents shoulders rounding and curling inward. Lying face-down and resting forehead on the floor, stretch arms out to the side, perpendicular to your body. Make a fist, turn your thumbs up toward the ceiling, and lift your arms off the floor. Hold until you can’t any more.

Swan Dive (targets longitudinal tension along your thoracic spine)
It prevents forward slumping of thoracic spine, forward head posture and medial rotation of shoulders. (This is the grand-daddy of them all, if you’re only going to do one exercise, do this one!) Lying face-down, arms down at sides, lift head, neck and chest off floor, squeeze shoulder blades together while externally rotating arms by sticking thumbs out like a hitch-hiker. Hold until you can’t anymore.

Restorative Yoga (this is your big reward)
Using a bolster, yoga block or rolled up towel, position it horizontally directly inferior to the bottom edge of your shoulder blades – this is approximately half way down your thoracic spine. Resting in this position for up to 5 minutes lets the force of gravity work to undo excessive bowing forward by bending you backward!!