Body Pain Head & Neck Shoulder & Arm By Sophie Xie / March 21, 2016 How to improve posture with these 3 on-the-go exercises- From a Physical Therapist “Sit up!”“Don’t slouch”“Stand proper!”How to improve posture without constantly thinking about your posture?It is not a mystery that better posture improves your chronic headaches, neck and back pain, shoulder movement, jaw function, lung function and depression. (Really? Really!)However, telling someone to get better posture is equivalent to shout things like “Be slim!” “Be rich!” or “Stop having diarrhea!”It has some motivation component, but largely depends on techniques and practice.So, today I challenge those of you who are suffering from chronic neck pain and shoulder pain, who are seeking alternative way to improve headache and TMJ problems, who wants to feel lighter and more confident through body language, to improve your posture through stretching and strengthening the proper way. First thing first, I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with these simple stretches for neck stiffness and why the "supervillain" shortened pec minor muscle can doom your posture. After all, it is way harder to strengthen muscles that are restricted by other tightness. This is called Passive Limitation.Posture exercise #1: shoulder blade pinch (no equipment needed)This exercise activates muscles in your upper back, targeting muscle groups such as the rhomboids, mid trapezius and lower trapezius muscle.The intention is to counter-act against, and hopefully over-power the tendency to shrug and round shoulders forward, by depressing and pulling the shoulders backwards. How: Stand or sit with good posture. Visualize your shoulder blades and try to squeeze them together and push them towards your buttocks. Hold this contraction for 10 seconds (May starts with 5 seconds and work up to 10), and repeat this exercise for 10 times.Note: If you experience muscle spasms in your upper or lower back, perform your exercise with milder contractions. In other words, you might be trying too hard. Allow your body to get use to the unfamiliar contractions.If you are experiencing lower back pain, perform the exercise with the belly button pulled in. This will activate your abdominal muscle, which will provide protection for your lower back.Frequency: You can perform this exercise up to once every hour. I recommend starting at 3-5 times per day after your neck and chest stretches.Posture exercise #2: postural chin tuck (No equipment needed)This exercise’s purpose is not to show off your double chin (as this is what this looks like). Its purpose is to activate a group of muscles referred to as the deep neck flexor.The exercise’s intention is to regain proper cervical (neck) spine curvature and decrease the load on the neck muscle. How: Stand or sit with good posture. Keeping your eyes and face leveled (not looking up or down), retract your head and chin backwards as far as you can go (without causing discomfort, pain or nausea)Hold this contraction 5-10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.Note: If you experience increased neck pain or headaches, do not pull your chin as hard. Start the motion small. You may also try this exercise lying down and let gravity assist with the retraction first, before trying it in sitting or standing.Frequency: You can perform this exercise up to once every hour. I recommend starting at 3-5 times per day after your neck and chest stretches.You can combine the first two exercises together and do them while stuck in traffic!Posture exercise #3: postural external rotation (stretchy Bands needed, beginner level)This exercise targets one of your rotator cuff muscles to assist in keeping your shoulder joint in alignment. This is a great exercise especially for those with shoulder pain.Shoulder external rotation exercise Stand or sit with good posture. Keep your elbows close to your body, but bend them both by 90 deg so that your hands are in front of you at chest level(or slightly below). Use your hands to hold the band so that its straight, but not stretched.Now stretch the band by pulling your hands apart, keeping your elbow by your side at all time. And un-stretch the band nice and slow with control. Repeat 10-20 times as your strength allows.Note: Always stop the exercise if it increases your pain. Adjust the exercise by using a lighter band, or decrease the range of motion you are exercise with. Always try to keep exercises as pain-free as possible.Frequency: I recommend starting at 3-5 times per day after your neck and chest stretches. TherabandThese traditional bands do not have handles. However, they are very light and can easily fit through doors or be tied into a knot to adjust for a large variety of exercises. I high recommend this type of band for regular resistance exercises. Resistance tubingsTubings come with handles and little parts that help you anchor your tubing over doors. They are more comfortable to handle during exercises.This type of persistence band is great for upper body exercises, especially for those with forearm pain when gripping. Above are the three posture exercises that I prescribe to most patients with neck and shoulder pains. Let me know what you think in the comment below. 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