Portland Has a Dark Side

Portland at nightJackie and I recently visited Portland, OR. We had a great time. “Portlandia” definitely lived up to its reputation as a vibrant, lively city. If you get the chance to go, definitely check it out (especially Powell’s bookstore and the Japanese gardens, and of course the food scene).

However, as we walked around I couldn’t help but notice a dark side.

Portland residents are known for being physically active and it showed. I didn’t see nearly as many severely obese people as in other cities.

On the other hand, the denizens of Portland also known for being tech savvy and wired in. This showed as well.

Walking down the street in the commercial district I estimate that at least half the people were staring at their smart phone or tablet as they walked.

Not good. That’s potentially dangerous when you’re walking, as a lot of YouTube videos show. But that’s only the beginning. There’s an even worse aspect.

All these healthy young people had the slouched, slumped, forward-head posture that we used to associate only with old age.

Of course it’s not just mobile phones that are to blame. A lot of us spend most of our time sitting at a desk. If we don’t pay active attention to it, our shoulders tend to slump forward and down as the day goes on.

Adding to the problem, we rarely have any reason to move our shoulders outside of a very narrow range right in front of us.

The result isn’t only unattractive. Uncorrected, this forward-head, slumped posture leads to degeneration of the spine and eventually stiff, painful neck and shoulders with very limited mobility.

Gradually, people become less and less capable and more and more injury prone.

Now, let me be clear. I’m not pointing any fingers. My posture is far from perfect. However, since I’ve started using a program I came across, it is better than it used to be and continuing to get better.

Of course I have my excuses for why my posture got so bad in the first place.

I spent years in college and medical school sitting in lecture halls and studying at desks. As a surgeon I spent hours at a time leaning over an operating room table, too often with head bent and shoulders slumped.

Years ago I realized I had an issue when I saw pictures of myself from the side. Sometimes you don’t realize how bad things have gotten until you see a picture.

Around the same time, I also had a shoulder injury (I was doing incline bench presses without a spotter and missed getting the bar back on the rack. The torque as the bar fell partially dislocated my left shoulder).

That injury and the pictures led me to pay more attention to my shoulder movement.

Classic static stretching didn’t work at all for me. I guess it’s an okay thing to do after a workout but it’s never helped me gain mobility.
I did some physical therapy and that helped strengthen my rotator cuff but didn’t improve my posture or range of motion very much.

Fortunately, I did find a program that helped me. It uses a series of light exercises and active stretches to not only improve mobility but to integrate it into functional movement. This translates well into everyday life.

I was particularly impressed that it applies sound principles of physiology to get results.

For example, if you contract one muscle the opposing muscle automatically relaxes. If you have the right technique, you can take advantage of this to improve your range of motion around any joint.

This is only one of the ways in which this program is very different from the static stretching most people do.

Even if you don’t have any shoulder issues now, this is a good way to maintain and protect your shoulders.

However, chances are pretty good that your posture could use some improving. The sooner you pay attention to it the better. Still, it’s never too late – things can get better with proper training.

I keep thinking about all the people I saw in Portland with that slumped, forward head position. It’s not just in Portland. Look around and you see it everywhere. This shoulder program really helps. Check it out.