Justin Price is a biomechanics specialist and expert in corrective exercise techniques with over 20 years’ experience in helping people overcome chronic aches and pains. He teaches his techniques to health and fitness professionals around the world through the educational program he created called The BioMechanics Method®.
He is an expert in postural assessment and corrective exercise for many of the world’s leading certifying agencies for health professional and is also a consultant to many media establishments including Time Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, MSNBC, WebMD, FoxNews, Discovery Health, Prevention Magazine, The British Broadcasting Association, Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Fitness, Tennis Magazine, and Arthritis Today. We’re thrilled to have Justin share the story of how he began to explore posture and its effect on the body, as well as his expertise with tips to improve posture and alleviate pain.
Expert Q&A: Tips To Correct Bad Posture
(1) How did you get started in the fitness industry? When did you become interested in biomechanics?
When I was 10 years old, I used to accompany my father to his massage and physical therapy appointments so I could learn how to help him with his massage and exercises between his appointments. As such, I was exposed at a very young age to how people could alleviate aches and pains in the body using various therapeutic techniques. This ignited my passion to want to understand more about the way the body moves and how you can help it feel and function better through the correct application of various corrective exercise and biomechanical retraining techniques.
(2) What is the BioMechanics Method?
The tremendous success I achieved with clients in alleviating their pain led countless health and fitness professionals to ask me about my approach to pain relief. So, I systematized the techniques and exercises I discovered and created over the past three decades into a program called The BioMechanics Method® (TBMM). This revolutionary approach to pain relief teaches health professionals how to conduct postural assessments, understand anatomy and movement, apply corrective exercise techniques, and implement life coaching strategies all in a simple system that makes improved function and pain-free living a reality for people plagued by muscle and joint pain. There are now trained TBMM Specialists all over the world and The BioMechanics Method has helped millions of people alleviate their own aches and pains.
(3) What are the most common postural issues you see?
Most of us engage in the same postural environment throughout the day – prolonged sitting and doing most of our activities right in front of us (i.e., driving, using computers and hand-held devices, etc.). Over time, these activities cause many common postural imbalances. Here is a breakdown by body area:
- Feet and Ankles
When you are walking, the foot and ankle rolls inward toward the other leg as you transfer weight from side to side. If the foot and ankle roll in too much or too quickly, (i.e., collapse), it results in a problem called overpronation.
The shin sits on top of the foot and ankle. The knee is at the other end of the shin. If the feet and ankles collapse inward (i.e., overpronate) your knees collapse inward also.
- Lower Back and Pelvis
The knees are connected to the thigh bones. When your knees collapse inward, your thighs do too. The tops of your thigh bones form your hip sockets and attach to your pelvis. When your thighs roll inward, your hip sockets and pelvis are pulled out of alignment. Your pelvis is attached to your spine, so when your pelvis shifts out of alignment, it causes your lower back to arch excessively.
- Mid- and Upper Back
Your mid- and upper back contains a naturally-occurring forward bend. However, when your lower back arches too much, your upper back must round further forward to keep your body from tipping backward. When your upper back rounds too much, your shoulder blades move forward putting your shoulder joint and arms out of alignment.
- Head and Neck
The head is attached to your upper back via your neck, so when your upper back rounds forward your head moves forward also. The further your head moves forward, the more your neck has to arch backward to keep your eyes parallel to the horizon.
What’s more, when one part of the body has a postural problem, it affects the position of all the other structures in the body. Therefore, if you have even one of the previous issues it’s likely you also have the other problems too.
(4) What are the connections between chronic pain and posture?
Check out this video of me demonstrating how the most common postural imbalances can cause various aches and pain throughout the body. You will really learn a lot about how your posture can directly result in chronic pain issues.
(5) Are there any simple self-assessments someone could do to determine their posture?
Absolutely! Stand against a wall in bare feet with your feet pointing straight ahead and your heels, buttocks, shoulders and head touching the wall. If standing in good alignment, your body weight should be felt toward the outside of your heels. However, if you feel pressure in the front of your feet and toes, your body weight is collapsing in and forward. This added pressure to your feet, ankles, and knees can cause pain.
Next, slide your hand behind your back while standing against the wall. Evaluate the space between your lower back and the wall. If you’re only able to slide your fingers into the space, you have an acceptable degree of arch in your lower back. However, if there is enough space for you to slide your whole hand or forearm between your back and the wall, your lower back arches too much. If your lower back typically arches too much, your pelvis will also shift out of alignment by tipping down at the front. This can lead to movement dysfunction as well as hip, groin, leg, and lower back pain.
Lastly, try to decrease the arch in your lower back by tucking your pelvis under (i.e., waist band moves up at the front). When you do this, see whether your shoulders round forward away from the wall. If they do, the muscles of your shoulders and upper back may be weak (which is why it’s difficult to keep your shoulders back to the wall when you remove the excessive arch in your lower back). This weakness can lead to shoulder, back, and neck pain and places more stress on the lower back (since it must compensate for the lack of strength in your upper back).
These simple assessment techniques can help you understand how your body compensates for one area of dysfunction by overusing other areas. Addressing these imbalances with corrective exercises can reduce compensation patterns, decrease pain, and improve function.
(6) Are there any stretches or exercises you think most people should incorporate into their workout programs?
One of the easiest things people can do to help improve the way their body feels and functions is to buy the right shoes. To find out how to assess your own body to know which shoes are best for you, perform theses two self-assessments.
Another beneficial thing people can do to help undo the restrictions caused by past injuries, sitting too much, doing the wrong exercises, stress, or overworking some muscles and not others, is to incorporate some form of self-myofascial release (fancy word for self-massage) into their daily routine. Here is one of my favorite self-massage exercises. It so easy, you can do even while you watch TV!
(7) What are some key considerations for the average desk worker who wants to correct bad posture?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no “ideal sitting posture.” Our body was simply not designed to sit for long periods of time. As such, the best advice I can give to desk workers is to:
- Get out of your chair several times a day to help straighten your hips and spine.
- Convert your workspace to a standing desk, or at least try to do all your phone calls while standing.
- If you absolutely must sit down, try to change chairs and sitting positions often or alternate sitting on a gym ball with an office chair.
- Adjust the positioning and alignment of your computer monitors, telephones, steering wheels, chairs, televisions, computer accessories, and keyboards to help promote a more upright spine.
(8) What are three stretches or exercises to improve forward rounded shoulders and forward head posture?
Sitting at a computer, driving, texting, watching T.V., cooking and reading can all cause the shoulders to round forward and head to drop. Here are three exercises to help the alleviate shoulder, back and neck pain associated with these activities.
1. Theracane on Back of Neck
Apply steady pressure to any sore spots you feel on the back of your neck from the top of your shoulders all the way up to the base of your skull. Perform for 3 – 5 minutes every day.
2. Tennis Ball Around Shoulder Blade
Lay on the floor with your knees bent and your head resting on a pillow. Pull one arm across your chest and place a tennis ball under the shoulder blade of that arm. Find a sore spot and hold to the release tension. Move the ball gently to another spot and so on. Hold for 20-30 seconds on each sore spot. Perform at least once per day.
Note: Do not roll around vigorously when performing this exercise.
3. The “Why” Stretch
Stand or sit and take your arms out to your side and slightly behind you. Rotate your palms upward. Squeeze the shoulder muscles in the middle of your back to help pull your shoulder blades and arms back. Do not shrug. Hold this position for 10 -15 seconds and do two to three repetitions once per day.
(9) What are three exercises or stretches to improve tight hip flexors?
That’s a great question, as most of the population has tight hip flexors. Your hip flexor muscles cross the front of your hips and can get very restricted and tight from sitting all day long. Massaging and stretching these muscles will help improve your posture and prevent the aches and pains associated with sitting too much. I have outlined one massage and two stretching exercises for your hip flexors below.
1. Foam Roller on Hip Flexors
Before you start stretching it is a good idea to warm up the muscle first to bring blood supply to the area. You can do this by self-massaging your hip-flexors with a foam roller. If you don’t have a foam roller you can use a tennis ball instead (see second picture below).
Place the roller perpendicular to the front of your body and lie over it at hip level. Find a sore spot on the front of your hips and hold your bodyweight on it for a few seconds to help your muscles release. Move your upper body to roll the roller to different sore spots on the upper leg keeping your abdominals engaged to ensure that your lower back does not arch too much. Roll for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side at least once per day.
2. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Stretching the hip flexors in this kneeling position is a great way to help encourage the hips to move forward under the spine so that your lower back does not have to overcompensate by arching excessively to hold the torso upright when you go to stand up after sitting.
(Note: The woman in this picture is stretching her right hip/leg)
Kneel with one leg in front of the other. Try to tuck your hips under until you feel the glutes of your kneeling leg contract. Keep the torso upright without arching your lower back excessively. Hold for 30 seconds each side. Do once per day.
3. The Doorframe Stretch
This stretch is a progression from the kneeling hip-flexor stretch shown above. It is an easy exercise to perform at work or in a door way at home so that you don’t even have to get down on the ground. This stretch also addresses tightness in the calves, abdominals and shoulders to help encourage an upright posture all the way from your feet up to your head.
Step your right leg through a door frame and keep your left leg back as you reach up with your left arm to the door jam. Tuck your butt and hips under on the left side while still keeping your left leg straight and left heel on the ground. You should feel this stretch in the front of your left hip and leg, and possibly in your abdominals and back of the left calf. Switch legs and arms and repeat on the other side for about 30 seconds. Do this once per day.
(10) Anything else you would like to add?
If you are discouraged with the traditional medical modalities such as pain medication, doctors and/or surgery, then contact a health professional trained in The BioMechanics Method®. They are uniquely qualified to help you address the underlying cause(s) of your aches and pains rather than just putting a “band-aid” on the symptoms. Find a specialist near you.
Thanks to Justin for sharing his expertise and insights with us – if you find an exercise that really helps you out with your posture, please let us know in a comment.