Karl from Vitruvian Health shares how nurses and midwives can fix their posture using one simple move.
The way you are living is affecting your posture
For the typical nurse or midwife, the average day starts with waking up to the sound of an alarm clock (or crying kids), checking your phone, then getting straight up to start your day.
Your posture rarely rates a mention from thereon in.
As hunters and gatherers, strength and agility were key traits fundamental to the survival of the race. Sitting was for relaxation or sleeping. However, we’re now spending more time than ever sitting down – whether it be in front of the computer, in a meeting, in the car or in front of the TV. On top of that, many nurses and midwives are lifting heavy weights or being forced in awkward positions as part of their line of work.
This change in behaviour has meant that we have changed the way we move (or rather do not move) from our primitive ancestors, but our bodies have remained the same. Our bodies have not yet adapted to the sedentary lifestyle. As a result we are now forcing our body into positions they were not designed to adopt.
This has resulted in many of us having the following appearance:
- rounded shoulders
- tight pecs
- forward leaning neck
- kyphosis – a ‘hunched back’ appearance
- tight hip flexors
This appearance is generally termed as ‘having poor posture’.
How does ‘poor posture’ affect your health?
Having poor posture mainly affects the spine. Our spine plays an important role in conveying messages around the body. It is shaped in an ‘S’ that is made up of interconnecting vertebrae, which gives you the gift of movement – the ability to arch, bench and twist.
‘Poor posture’ compromises the musculature designed to support our spines by assuming positions that are unique to the modern world, such as the C-shape in your spine from slouching forward. In response, the spine searches for its own stability, which often means simply hanging on the end ranges of the body through overextension (arching back) and flexion (rounding forward).
Common symptoms we see from ‘poor posture’ in our clients include:
- Low back pain
- Shoulder pain / impingement
- Tight / discomfort in the neck
- Poor balance
- Shallow breathing from a ‘collapsed diaphragm’
- Tight ankles
- Sore feet
- Knee pain
- Shin splints
- Tight hips
- Upper back stiffness
- Weak core
- Numbness and tingling
1 exercise you can start today to improve your posture
From a weight training perspective, you can improve your posture by strengthening the muscles in the posterior chain and by completing mobility exercises for the shoulders, spine and hips.
One exercise to get you started is the xhephong press.
Commonly used by gymnasts, this exercise focuses is a unilateral based movement that focuses on isolating the muscles that support each shoulder.
To perform the xhephong press:
- Grab a weight plate or a water bottle (fill it up to make it heavier or empty it to make it lighter);
- Push the shoulder holding the weight down, use the other hand to hold your stomach to make sure that you are contracting your core;
- Make a big circle with your arm holding the weight, keeping your arm as close to your ear as possible;
- While you do this, push the hand holding the weight as far away from you as possible without bending your spine. Keep your gaze on the weight the whole time, even when your arm is behind you;
- As your arm, and gaze, go behind you, you will feel a little bit of rotation through the spine, shoulder and upper back;
- You are aiming at keeping your hips neutral and facing forwards the whole time;
- Do one full circle and repeat;
- If you wish to challenge this movement even more, get close to a wall (ideally to the point where you are touching it with your shoulder) and do the circle here. If you feel quite restricted in your shoulder, step slightly further away from the wall and repeat the movement, If you get stuck at some point, you can simply oscillate up and down (just like in case of shoulder dislocates) to widen the range of movement;
- Perform 10 reps forward, 10 reps backward for each arm.
Check out this video with Vitruvian Health’s Karl McKenna, where he explains how to do this exercise.