Posture exercises are designed to tone the muscles of the back and neck and return the spine to proper alignment when in a sitting or standing position. Poor posture may occur at any point along the head, neck, and back area. The correct neutral posture is one in which the shoulders are aligned above the hips, the spine is elongated, the stomach is flat, and there is a slight inward curve in the lower back.
A healthy person with no spinal disease and no damage should be able to move freely, and be able to maintain a sitting position without stiffness, pain, or numbness. Problems occur when the person allows the body to slump into an unnatural position. Eventually, muscles and tendons become stretched or atrophied from poor posture and must be retrained with posture exercises.
Pain or stiffness in the neck is a common complaint, often caused by sitting or standing with the head forward. Rolling the head clockwise, then counter-clockwise is a good stretch to release muscle tension. A neck exercise can be done while standing or sitting with the back flat against the wall. The person tucks the chin to the neck and the neck to the wall, holds the posture, and then returns the head to a level position.
Shoulders are often tense areas, due to slouching shoulders forward. Posture exercises for shoulders include lying face-down on the floor, and lifting shoulders backward so that the shoulder blades are drawn together. Another can be done while leaning over a couch or chair and holding the abdominal muscles tight. A person stretches arms straight out from the body, and slowly lowers the arms to the side, then raises them again. This posture exercise is especially effective when holding small hand weights or cans of food.
The core muscles of the lower back, abdomen, and hips are vital to good back posture. To strengthen both back and abdomen, a person can lie on the floor facing upwards, and then lift the legs and pull the knees toward the chest, keeping spine and arms pressed against the floor. Ten repetitions is a good starting goal.
One good overall back exercise can be done with an exercise ball. The ball can be placed between the small of the back and a wall. Then the person rolls down the wall with the ball into a bent-knee position. A person can start with ten repetitions down and up the wall. As with all stretches, posture exercises should be discontinued if they cause pain.