The next time you are watching television, doing housework, cleaning, or vacuuming take a mental note of any body aches, neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain or any other areas of pain or discomfort. These types of chores involve repetitive movement and will stress areas and be potential sources of discomfort and chronic pain. Bending, twisting, rotating or having your head and neck bent forward.
The next time you are doing housework or yard work, that may be an opportunity to improve posture and strengthen your neck and back muscles and reduce chronic areas of pain. If you are vacuuming or raking, you are slouched forward, head bent down and arms stretching out and away from your body. Your neck and shoulders may get uncomfortable. Forward Head Posture is a common condition that we see in our office and I discuss this in another article.
Many activities we do throughout our day involve having the head and neck bent forward, increasing the angle of our neck and upper back curves in the forward direction. For every centimetre the head is forward from the bodies centre line in a lateral measurement, the weight bearing load on the neck and back muscles is increased. When this accumulates over time it can be a constant source of discomfort, pain, headaches, back pain and many other chronic problems.
So when you perform activities that reproduce this stress on these areas your neck pain, back pain and shoulder pain may be getting worse. If you were to tuck your chin inwards, and tilt the head slightly posterior, this immediately will reduce some of the stress and put the neck in a more correct posture. While standing and holding the rake or vacuum, bring your arms back and squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other. These movements put those areas of your spine back into better alignment and help to improve posture. Avoid holding the rake or vacuum too far away from your body, try to stay as upright as possible and not bent forward and staring down at the floor or ground.
While standing upright you can contract your abdominal muscles intermittently to increase the tone of these muscles. Doing this a few times whilst performing these chores helps also to reduce the workload on your lower back muscles and strengthen the abdominals and improve your centre of gravity. Try to keep your legs shoulder distance apart and facing forward, not deviating outward or inward. Keep your knees slightly bent. This reduces the stress that can occur to your lower back.
Again, a good posture exercise to break up the housework or yard work is to stand straight up, arms extended out in front of you, and squat down at the knees, approximating your buttocks towards the ground. Be sure to keep your heels planted flat on the ground and not to roll forward on the balls of your feet. Eight to ten repetitions is plenty and you will definitely feel this in your quadriceps muscles and glutes. When you are finished you will definitely be standing straighter!
So there are three simple and powerful exercises to improve your posture while performing house cleaning or yard work duties! Chin tuck and slight head extension and neutral position, slowly glide the chin forwards and backwards to improve your neck posture. Standing straight, squeeze the shoulder blades together, elbows at your sides. Knees slightly bent, squat down towards the ground and keep the feet flat on the floor and maintain a straight back posture. This is a general and basic overview of some simple yet highly effective posture exercises. As with any chronic pain or health condition make sure you consult with an allied health professional to be sure that these are appropriate for your specific postural needs. 18