Bam! A car smashes into someone in a crosswalk, and there goes the pedestrian's knee. A witness wants to help and starts to run toward the accident, but she steps off of the curb at an awkward angle and pop — there goes her knee. Two knee injuries — both accidents — but one is more preventable than the other. While you can’t control bad drivers (or other potential impacts to the body), you can take steps to keep your body moving the way it’s supposed to so you’re less likely to hurt yourself.
So what happened to our concerned citizen as she stepped off the curb? A likely possibility is her movement pattern was compromised by the muscles that support her knee. And this was probably due to underactive and overactive muscles.
“Poor posture has a lot to do with underactive and overactive muscles,” says Stefan Underwood, director of continuous improvement at EXOS. “And posture is a constant factor in life — how you stand and sit throughout the day, and the position you sleep in at night.”
Runner’s knee, low back pain, shoulder joint problems, hamstring pulls, and Achilles tendinitis are all examples of injuries that are often caused by poor movement patterns.
Here’s how it works: Every time you move, energy transfers throughout your body, creating a chain reaction. When your hips, torso, and shoulders are properly aligned (and you don’t have underactive or overactive muscles), that energy transfers smoothly as you move. But if you move incorrectly and lose alignment, some of that energy diverts off course and can strain joints and muscles, increasing your chances of pains and injury. The key to maintaining alignment is strength and stability around your most vulnerable areas, along with mobility, balance, and joint function.
It might sound like a lot to work on, but the good news is it’s simple to start improving right now: Become more aware of your posture and regularly correct it and try the suggested movement session below. (For the best results, get an assessment of your movement quality and follow a personalized workout plan.)
Follow these tips for help sitting and standing straight:
1. Start with the goal of correcting your posture 15 percent of the time in any given scenario — at your desk, in the car, or in bed — and work your way up from there.
2. Keep your shoulders pulled back and down, away from your ears.
3. Have a proud chest, but be careful not to go too far and make your ribs stick out.
4. If you’re standing with perfect posture, your ears should be in line with your shoulders, your hips with your knees, and your knees with your ankles. “Imagine your hips are a bucket of water that you need to keep parallel to the ground,” says Underwood.
5. If you’re seated, there should be a line between your ears and hips.
6. Adjusting your environment can help keep your posture in check, such as the height of your computer monitor on your desk and the angle of your rearview mirror in the car.
Here’s how to work on your sleep posture.
It’s all about spine alignment. If you sleep on your side, use one pillow to support your head and another between your knees. If you sleep on your back, use one pillow under your head and slide another under your knees. (This is the best position for your spine.) If you sleep on your tummy, slide a relatively flat pillow under your stomach to help your spine keep its natural alignment.
Try this 15-minute movement routine three to five times per week.
(To see demonstrations of the movements, check out the video.)
1. Start with self-massage. Foam roll your quads and tensor fasciae latae, or TFL. (Your TFL is located near the front of your hips, behind your pant pocket.) Then use a massage ball to do trigger point massage on your pec minor. (A tennis ball or lacrosse ball works well, too.)
2. Next, work on mobility. Do a half-kneeling quad/hip flexor stretch for about 30 seconds per side followed by a 90/90 arm sweep.
3. Then improve stability. Do a set of Ys, Ts, Ws, and Ls, followed by a DNS eight-month posture, glute bridge, DNS star pattern, and plank with shoulder tap. While this movement routine is great for shoring up your weak spots, remember, improving your posture is how you’ll benefit most.
As with any attempt at building a healthy habit, start simple, block out a regular time, and be as consistent as possible. (And don’t forget to look both ways before crossing the street.)
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