Feature Photo courtesy of FITTED MAGAZINE
What happened to our heads? Those ten-pound bowling balls that are supposed to be perched atop our shoulders now seem to reside somewhere reaching out over our toes. Our upper backs, over time become more and more rounded and soon it is almost impossible to maintain an upright posture even for a few minutes. So what happened?
Laptops happened, cell phones happened, poor workstations or no workstations happened, and general disregard for posture in general happened.
“Grape Squishers” – A Posture Hack To Save Your Spine
Remember books on tops of heads walking across a room? Remember a rapping of the knuckles if you were not sitting up straight? We have let the battle go thinking posture integrity was not important.
Well, we have created quit the problem. I would say close to 80 percent of my patients have heads that carry too far forward off their shoulders and let me tell you, this is not an aesthetic problem, although it does look pretty bad. This is a physiologic cascading nightmare.
You think I am exaggerating.
Here are the facts.
Results of an anterior head carriage posture.
- Between 10-45 additional pounds of force and wear and tear on the neck and shoulders
- Can result in neck and low back pain and chronic musculoskeletal issues
- 30% reduction of vital lung capacity (3)
- Accelerates degenerative joint disease
- Reduces physical performance
- Decreased range of motion and flexibility, resulting in early aging to the affected joints.
- Lower quality of life due to inability to physically function in later stages of life
- Decreased cardiovascular capacity
- Sluggish bowel peristalsis and elimination
- Headaches and TMJ syndrome
- Cognitive impacts and immune dysfunction (4)
Anterior head posture is much worse than just making you look shorter and more debilitated. So what do we do about it? What we understand is that where the head is, the body will follow, so we must get the head back over the shoulders with some simple exercises that fire the tiny postural muscles of the spine.
The problem is that we are combating years of poor posture and bad habits and so to undo them we must remain consistent in our application of posture rehabilitative movements. Also, plan on 1-3 months of diligent attention to these exercises before you note the positive changes. And finally, remember that these exercises are as much for correction as they for prevention so keep doing them even if you are not noting huge improvement. You are making a great investment in your future spine if you keep a steady practice of postural work.
One of the most simple and easily applicable moves for regaining proper head carriage is an exercise I named “The Grape Squisher.” This exercise, if performed a few times a day, can start to wake up those elongated weak muscles that allow your head to hang out over the cliff of your collarbones. I recommend these be performed against a wall but you can do them equally well in your car, sitting in a high-back desk chair or even lying down. The trick is to actually do them and often.
- Find a place sitting or standing where you can push your head back against a surface. A wall is an easy choice but a high-backed desk chair or a car with a high headrest will do as well.
- Sit with good posture and keep your shoulders back.
- Slowly **translate** your head back against the wall or head rest until it touches.
- Gently push against the wall or the headrest with ONLY ENOUGH FORCE TO SQUISH A GRAPE. (Grape Squishers….get it? )
- Hold for a slow count of ten.
- Release and count to ten
- Repeat the exercise ten times.
- Try to perform this exercise, in various positions at least three to four times a day.
**TRANSLATE** I will admit most people do this exercise wrong. Instead of “translating” their head, they “tilt” back elevating their chin to get their head to touch the wall. Here is how you know if you are doing it right. Pretend you have a grapefruit under your chin. (I love fruit analogies.) As you translate your head back toward the wall, keep the chin slightly tucked, as if holding the grapefruit. Your chin should not deviate from neutral.
Remember: You can modify this exercise for a desk chair or your car or even lying down. I love doing Grape Squishers at traffic lights! Using a red light as a trigger helps me remember to do them frequently through out the day.
If you would like a verbal explanation of this post watch this VIDEO
This week work toward performing ten Grape Squishers, four times a day. Be careful. Although the exercise does not seem like much it is challenging to the little postural muscles of your spine. Let me know how you do and let’s get those heads back over your spine!