I love it when people want to improve their health & happiness with a well thought out fitness regime that’s relevant to their body. However I’m less keen when it’s a standardised program that doesn’t allow for adaptation & recognition of individual needs. This article will give you an insight into how I think as an osteopath as well as encourage you to consider your lifestyle & any regular habitual postures before you begin your new fitness regime.
Consider this: a person who works 8+ hours a day in a desk job (which is likely not ergonomically setup) for years now decides it is the perfect time to get fit. They decide road biking will be their passion, however the common end result (other than a new found desire to wear lycra!) is a sore upper back, neck and sometimes headaches.
WHY?? Because the posture involved in road biking is much the same as in a desk job. Shoulders are rounded forward, the neck is extended & the chin juts out forward, which locks up the upper neck. As a result of this repetitive posture, the person will have limited ability to extend through their upper back and to rotate their neck as far as they used to, along with altered function through their arms, due to corresponding shoulder issues.
So what could have helped?
I would recommend doing some simple stretching & strengthening exercises in conjunction with taking up biking.
The simple exercises described below are useful if you have a desk based job, because they target regions of weakness & tightness without overstraining specific areas. However, I would suggest seeking advice from your health care provider before starting any new stretches as they may require some adaptations to suit your individual needs.
Try this: simply lie on a rolled up bath towel running down the length of the upper back from the base of the neck at shoulder level down to the base of the ribcage. Place a pillow under your head & your legs should be bent at the knees with your feet flat on the floor. Alternatively you could use a full-length foam roller & omit the use of a pillow, the legs must still be bent at the knees. This helps open up the ribcage and relaxes the neck into a neutral position. Your arms can then be held out to either side at shoulder height, allowing them to drop onto the ground, which helps stretch out the chest, assisting in totally reversing the desk/bike positions. This position should be held for as short as one minute but as long as 10-15 minutes if you build up to it.
The basic strengthening exercise below is aimed at the muscles between the shoulder blades (rhomboids & lower trapezius)- by improving the function of these muscles the chest can be held up & open more efficiently.
This exercise requires you to be able to lie flat on the floor on your stomach; your arms should be outstretched above your head. Whilst maintaining a normal breathing pattern, lift one arm off the floor then replace it back down. Swap arms repetitively for a minute whilst trying to pull the shoulder blades towards each other.
If you think Mia or one of our team could help you with any of the symptoms mentioned above (excluding the lycra wearing) please feel free to contact us on 02 9453 3046.
Article written by Dr Mia Rabjohn (Osteopath)