Did your mother tell you to stand up straight when you were a kid? Mine did. A lot. Height-challenged, she nursed a lifelong grudge about having been denied tallness genes. She always stretched her spine as long as possible, trying to get the physical stature to match her outsized personality.
As a teen, I found my mother’s preoccupation strange. Who cared about being tall? I had mousy hair, acne and braces. Posture was the least of my worries.
When my mother caught me slouching, she’d step up behind me and latch onto my shoulders with her long bony fingers, digging them hard into my flesh and pulling them backwards. “Straighten up!” she’d command. God, she was annoying. I’d shrug her off and twist away—but I did head into early adulthood with decent posture.
In later adulthood, not so much. Thanks to loss of muscle strength, an uncomfortable couch and endless hours spent hunched over a computer, I’ve become a round-shouldered schlump. The acne and braces are long gone, but my interest in posture remains limited—or at least it did until yesterday afternoon.
I was in physical therapy for shoulder tendinitis, or impingement syndrome, which has kept me off the tennis court for weeks. During the previous PT sessions, I’d stretched and strengthened and undergone electrical stimulation and massage. Although there’d been some improvement, I still felt a sharp pinch in my shoulder.
This day, my therapist asked me to show her my overhead, a motion that reliably brings on that pinching sensation. After I demonstrated it, she asked me to do it again, only this time focusing on pulling my shoulder blades back.
Well, goodness. I won’t say it was a complete cure, but it was a remarkable difference.
It turns out that slouching, besides making you look shorter and older and dumpier in your tennis clothes, also reduces the space your shoulder has for rotation. My poor posture was a contributing factor in developing tendinitis in the first place.
Which means I’ll be using the month of September to improve my posture. This could be the most challenging challenge month yet. Sure, I’m sitting up straight right now, but that’s because I just learned about this issue yesterday. What about tomorrow? What about two weeks from now? Without my mother around to nag me, I’m afraid I’ll slump right back into bad habits.
That’s where you come in. If you see me hunched over—if you live nearby and know what I look like—grab my shoulders and straighten me up. Or if that’s too hands-on, give me a quick jab in the shoulder blades with a bony finger. It’ll be like having my own Mom army around, annoying the crap out of me but keeping me tall and, more important, on the tennis court.
Do you have tips for better posture? I’m thinking of getting a lumbar pillow—good idea?