Many people experience posture-related health problems such as chronic back pain. Unless you have an underlying health condition such as osteoporosis, these problems are often caused by consistent slumping and poor posture, according to the Yoga Journal. Sitting for extended periods of time at a desk and keeping arms forward to perform desk or computer work further exacerbate posture-related health problems. Rib cage stretches can help correct bad posture and aid in alleviating associated pain and illness.
The ribs are connected to the spine and breastbone, and they form a cage to protect major organs. Although the back has a natural curve to it, regular slumping and poor posture cause the spine to curve too much. The rib cage then becomes less mobile, resulting in a “stuck midback,” says Yoga Journal. Eventually, immobility leads to a permanent slump in the midback, or thoracic spine, called a kyphosis. Back muscles weaken, and tissues and ligaments of the front body, as well as small rib muscles and abdominal muscles, begin shortening, according to Yoga Journal. Eventually, the rib cage and the spine become less mobile with increased kyphosis.
Increased kyphosis can lead to health problems, such as breathing difficulties and chronic neck tension, says Yoga Journal. Because the body is one organic system, problems in one area of the body affect other areas. A kyphosis, including a tight rib cage, not only affects the musculoskeletal system, promoting soft tissue and joint dysfunction and pain, but it also affects the nervous, endocrine, digestive and circulatory systems, according to the Root2Being health website. Incorporating exercises to stretch the rib cage, as well as the back and front of the body, into your regular workout routine will help you maintain better overall health and fitness.
One of the most important exercises you can do, even while you’re not working out, is a breathing exercise. Not only do breathing exercises help relieve tension and relax you, but they also stretch your rib cage, which in turn benefits surrounding muscles, tissues and bones, as well as the rest of your body. Each time you inhale, you stretch out your rib cage, so it’s important to inhale deeply whenever you think about it. And when you want to focus on breathing exercises, breath deeply several times in a row, but hold your breath for about one or two seconds before exhaling. Make sure that every time you inhale, you’re taking in enough air to force your abdomen to move out slightly.
Add breathing squats to your exercise repertoire to get more air circulating throughout your body and to stretch your rib cage. Simply perform regular squats, but inhale with each return standing position and exhale with each squat. Repeat for up to 20 repetitions. Add weights to breathing squats for more intensity, but make sure you have the correct form down for regular squats first, suggests TrainerJosh.com on Metacafe.
You’ll likely want to use support during backbends, especially if you’re not used to such movement. You can use an exercise ball and gradually work yourself back over it to eventually achieve a backbend. However, consistently doing supported backbends with a ball will stretch your rib cage, as well as the surrounding areas. If you don’t have a ball, you can also sit on the floor and gently push your mid-back against a chair, then stretch your upper back and head back a bit, suggests the Yoga Journal.
From a standing position, perform arm stretches by extending your arms straight up into the air. Keep your posture erect, reach as high as you can and hold for about 20 seconds. Also stretch to the sides, either with one arm at a time or both arms. Avoid leaning forward during stretches.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.