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Fight the Awful Effects of Sitting and Gravity: My “Old Man” Stretch

POSTED ON IN Latest News BY Chris Centeno

As we get old, our spines and bodies suffer the effects of sitting and the weight of earth’s gravity with additional insults from smartphones. As a result, I have a secret stretch I do every day to help me fight these forces and to help avoid the worst of the “old man” (or “old woman”) posture. This stretch keeps my neck stenosis and shoulder pain at bay. I’d like to teach it to you this morning and hopefully, you’ll do this every day as well.

Sitting and Gravity Are Tough Mistresses

As we age, our spine begins to mold itself around our sitting and smartphone-peering lifestyle. The psoas muscles that go from the spine to the front of the hip get tight. Our head and neck move forward. Our shoulders round. Our chest muscles get shorter and tighter.

After decades of helping patients get out of pain, one thing I suggest that my patients could correct to avoid problems is not allowing sitting and gravity to change their bodies. Why? There are a number of really negative things that happen:

  • Neck muscles at the back of the head get overloaded trying to hold up a bowling ball that has now drifted too far forward.
  • Discs in the spine (neck, upper back, and lower back) take too much weight, causing them to fail.
  • Little holes for the neck nerves (foramina) and the space for the nerves in the shoulder (thoracic outlet) get smaller.
  • Rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder get strained because the ball (humerus) in the shallow shoulder socket is pushed forward.
  • Upper back muscles get yanked on as a “dowager’s hump” ensures.
  • Knees and hips come inward, causing those joints to wear unevenly and to fry the meniscus and labrum.
  • Ankles and feet tilt, causing uneven pressure that can lead to arthritis and crooked toes.

About 75% of all the problems I see in the clinic every day are directly related to or made worse by people not paying attention to how sitting and gravity is trashing their bodies.

What Can You Do to Avoid These Problems?

Notice my animated GIF of my stretch above. Here’s what to do:

  • You’ll need a doorway or similar.
  • Bend the elbow that goes on the doorway and hook your forearm there so that you feel a stretch in the front of your chest.
  • Next, place the opposite foot forward and the same foot backward.
  • Place both heels on the ground so that you feel a good stretch in the calf and hamstrings of the backward leg.
  • Move your body forward so that you feel a good stretch in the front of the backward leg and chest.
  • Make sure you stand up tall as you move forward.

Do not do this stretch if you injure yourself easily! Otherwise, take this very slow and ease into it until you become familiar with how it affects you.

Here’s where you should be feeling all the stretches:

door stretch

Make sure you get both sides (right and left chest/front of hip/hamstring/calf)! Do this stretch every day, a few times a day for five minutes. I also do this before I work out or exercise.

The upshot? A simple stretch can help you avoid loads of misery as you age, or if you’re already in pain, it can help take pressure off the areas that are getting trashed by sitting and gravity. Try this and you’ll be surprised how well it works!

    *DISCLAIMER: Like all medical procedures, Regenexx® Procedures have a success and failure rate. Patient reviews and testimonials on this site should not be interpreted as a statement on the effectiveness of our treatments for anyone else.
    Providers listed on the Regenexx website are for informational purposes only and are not a recommendation from Regenexx for a specific provider or a guarantee of the outcome of any treatment you receive.


    B. Stratman says

    Thank you. Helpful demonstrative information.


    Chris Centeno says

    Thanks B. Stratman!


    JJ says

    Mostly healed from a dislocated shoulder/fractured humerus head... should I do this stretch on that side?


    Chris Centeno says


    Not yet. Please check with your Doctor.


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    About the Author

    Chris Centeno

    Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…

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