Tech Neck & Pot Bellies – The alarming (and surprising) side effects of poor posture
We all slouch from time to time. Though it makes us look paunchier, older, and less confident, it’s simply more comfortable – especially when we are tired. In fact, poor posture and spine health tend to be something we don’t think about unless we are in front of a mirror – or have debilitating back pain.
While declining spine health used to be a nuisance associated with older age, our obsession with digital devices and the unnatural positions we use to access them, has created a spine alert epidemic for adults and teenagers alike. In addition to the visual unpleasantries of having a hunched back, saggy neck and protruding pooch, the long list of health complications of poor spine alignment, aka. “tech neck”, has doctors ringing the alarm promoting good posture.
The good news is, that posture is fixable! With more awareness, resolve and practice, we can train our shoulders, core muscles and our BRAIN, to stop the slouching habit for good.
A misaligned spine is like a house with a crooked foundation
Why is posture such a big deal? Like a house that has a weak foundation or crooked beams. Over time, the weight of the house will cause the foundation to crack and the beams to bend, leading to serious damage. Similarly, our bodies are supported by a complex system of bones, muscles, and ligaments. Over time, the wear and tear on our necks and backs can also lead to degenerative changes…
Neck pain and spinal dysfunction: The head is a heavy weight. When it is not held in alignment with the spine, it can overwork the muscles and ligaments in our neck and back leading to pain and dysfunction over time.
Rounded shoulders and pot belly: When we tip our heads forward, it also rounds our shoulders forward and forces our belly to protrude, which weakens our core and back muscles.
Headaches: The neck is a major passageway for nerves and blood vessels that supply the brain. Poor posture can compress the nerves and blood vessels in the neck, which can lead to headaches.
Breathing difficulties: Poor posture can compress the lungs, making it difficult to get enough oxygen.
Heartburn and slowed digestion: Poor posture can put pressure on the stomach and esophagus, which can make it difficult for food to move through the digestive system properly
The best way to combat poor posture is – awareness If you are a Mojo friend, you are well aware of my most frequent cue, “Head up, shoulders back!”. Try heeding this advice in and outside a Mojo session – at your desk, in your car and at the grocery store. Like any new skill set or positive habit, it’s all about muscle memory. It may feel awkward at first, but with frequency and consistency, it will become rote, and your spine, neck and waistline will thank you!
Looking to straighten out slouched shoulders or a sagging neck? Mojo and dance-based movement is an excellent way to do it:
• Core strengthening – Every single move we do starts and ends with our core. When our core muscles are strong, they are in a better position to support and protect our spine and pelvis.
• Increased awareness of posture – It’s nearly impossible to try challenging new moves unless our back and neck are in synch with our body. Doing this frequently helps us become more aware of our own posture and make adjustments throughout the day.
• Improve flexibility – Finding opportunities to allow the spine to move freely, lubricates the spine and improves flexibility.
Is it possible to reverse a sagging neck?
The sagging skin around our neck cannot be reversed, but adding muscle can help tighten and reduce the wrinkled appearance.
There are 26 or so muscles in our neck that help maintain proper alignment, says Adam Rosante, a celebrity strength and nutrition coach. “You should perform exercises that strengthen the main functions of the neck: flexion, extension, and lateral flexion. Upper-back exercises can also help combat rounded shoulders and further correct your postural alignment.”
In regard to Mojo Movements, every time we bend over in a squat position, with our head held high with shoulders down and back, in alignment with our spine, we are we are resisting gravity and strengthening unique neck and back muscles. Any time we lift, tilt or bob our head in synch with the music, we are waking up hard-to-reach muscles that have been asleep (Use it or lose it!).
Stretch! The complete set of upper body stretches we do at the end of each and every session is another way we lubricate, strengthen and heal our neck and spine. They are wonderful de-stressing exercises, too. Click here to access Mojo Online, and try out one of our cool down/stretch sessions anytime of the day. Click here to try it for 7 days free.
Here’s a couple of my fave “everyday” neck and spine stretches to get you started right now. Enjoy!
Stretch nice and tall…
Reverse the stretch…
Simple Tech Neck Prevention Tips
Our heads weigh an average of 10 to 12 lbs. They are biologically designed to be held upright and supported by our spine. Research shows that for every inch we drop our head forward we double the load on our neck muscles to the sum of 60 additional pounds of force. “It really changes the way the neck, the muscles, and the bones sit,” says Tanya Kormeili, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Simple tech neck prevention tips:
• If you cannot maintain your posture, take breaks every 20 minutes or so.
• Use a device stand or a phone holder to prop your device up at eye level.
• Use a good chair with good lumbar support to keep your spine aligned properly
• Do some simple exercises to strengthen your neck and shoulders. This will help to support your spine and reduce the risk of pain.