Effective Exercise, Less Time Stretching
When you are repeatedly doing common activities, either seated or standing, you are often looking down towards your hands with your head extended away from your body in a jutting position. While seated, your attention is naturally focused on the task at hand so that you don't notice the slight physical signals that your head position is creating detrimental effects on your neck and back muscles that will soon result in a “stand and stretch” response.
Actually, in this forward head position the weight of the head is effectively more than doubled, causing a work load beyond the muscles ideal limit just to hold the head up.
In a standing position, your arms are often lifted away from your body as you are looking down, this additional force is further transferred to the low back muscles; however in standing position the legs help support the transferred weight load. Still, this is an unnecessary additional load for the low back muscles to carry. With each excessive load that the muscles must support there is excessive pressure on the associated joints and over time this manifests as arthritis.
For sitting and standing, each position has an ideal body alignment that will reduce the force on the muscles to a minimum. In general, the rule is to have the ear, shoulder and hips in one plumb line to the floor (see the accompanying photographs).
When you stretch the muscles of your neck or low back, you typically pull your head forward or touch your toes, extending the range of flexion and loosening the tightness of the muscle. This feels better temporarily but does nothing to tone or strengthen the muscles at a length that is necessary for an optimal postural position that allows the least amount of work for the muscles and stress on the joints.
Exercise is vital but with biomechanical dysfunction it is not as rewarding. Poor posture in repetitive movements combined with sedentary lifestyles leads to this dysfunction as the muscles become inhibited or weak. Strong core muscles are the key to healthy posture. As we begin to move, they are the first to fire and need to be in constant flux of firing and relaxing throughout the day. They work to transfer and balance loads of shifting weight in physical activity. This is to say they work to keep our body in optimal alignment. With excessive inactivity, these core muscles fire infrequently or not at all.
An individual's habitual sedentary lifestyle that leads to dysfunction is specific to the individual. For this reason an effective program would include specifically identified exercises along with general core strength building activities. Performing toning exercises a couple times a day for even just five minutes can be completely effective.
In the end, curing pain requires changes in both exercise and lifestyle.