Shoulder posture is often overlooked until pain hits. We use our shoulders so much without realising. Every time we are at the computer mousing or typing away, every time we reach for our cup of coffee, every time we pick up the kids, the washing, the toys lying around and if you’ve made some time for yourself, every time you do your HIIT workout or yoga routine. We all know by now to relax the shoulders down away from the ears (hopefully without pinning them!) so I’ve focused this blog on a few different tips. Hope you get benefit and please if you have any questions, email me, I love questions!
Tip 1. Fix shoulder blade alignment
Did you know that your shoulder blades are not fixed to your rib cage? This is key, because it means it’s all up to the muscles to hold them in place so if you’re not aware of their positioning, they could be doing all sorts of things! Winging (the inner border of the shoulder blade lifts off the rib cage) is one of the most common postural concern of the shoulder blade.
Correct Winging with this routine…
To fix winging of the shoulder blades you first need to find awareness of them. To do this try these cues:
- Widen your upper back by thinking of stretching your shirt sideways
- Imagine you’re trying to blow up balloons that exist under your armpits without using your chest muscles (this is hard but good!)
- Before you start this next one, sit up tall and bring your ribs back over your hips (i.e. no flaring ribs). Next, hold onto the front edge of your seat, gently pull towards yourself and imagine the shoulder blades gluing firmly onto the ribcage.
Know you know what you’re feeling for, you can try incorporating your new skill into your workout routine. Try using a band to activate the muscles before you start your workout. Simply use the cues above for 1-3 set of 10 light pulls and 10 light pushes with a band (start with yellow, the lightest band and work your way up as you improve. Bands available at Myothrive). Then keep the cues in mind as you perform your workout. If you lose your awareness you can come back to the basics until you feel it again. Over time your shoulder blade posture will get better and better!
Tip 2. Fix Rounded Shoulders
Rounded shoulders can happen in two ways. It can come from the shoulder blades when weak lower trapezius muscles are combined with tight pectoralis minor muscles. We are going to focus on this problem today as the second problem takes a bit more assessment and specific exercises.
The other way you can get rounded shoulders is from the shoulder joint itself which is a ball and socket joint. The shoulder is the most moveable joint in the body in terms of its available range of motion. It doesn’t have much ligament support and is really reliant on the muscles and tendons to hold everything in position. This means if one of the muscles gets tight, or if ones gets weak then the shoulder can become slightly out of position. The most common movement we see is when the head of the arm (the ball) moves forward in the joint (the socket). This can lead to impingement, bursitis and tendinopathy or in short, pain and inflammation! As I mentioned, this second way of shoulder joint movement takes a little more assessment and personalised exercise prescription, so if you think this might be you, it might be worth booking in an Online Consultation with one of our musculoskeletal professionals here at Myothrive.
Try this routine…
To fix rounded shoulders we want to take a 2 pronged approach. One, we want to release the tight muscle at the front (pectoralis minor) and second, we want to strengthen the weak muscle at the back (lower trapezius).
- Release pectoralis minor with a spiky ball, lacrosse ball or tennis ball either on the floor or against the wall. Below is a picture of the trigger points you are trying to find. Place the spiky ball against the trigger point then come to the wall or floor to add pressure. Next, move your arm up and down the wall to assist releasing the trigger point. You can simply hold the trigger point if you prefer. 60 seconds is plenty and a max of 3 spots. Pro tip: use a yoga block or book to add distance between yourself and the wall or floor.
2. Stretch pectoralis minor – see this post for three ways to stretch pectoralis minor.
Try these cues for during your workout to help shoulder posture:
- Think of keeping your collar bones smiling 🙂
- Keep the front of your shirt wrinkle free
- Wear a tight shirt, if you feel your shirt starting to stretch around the shoulder or shoulder blade adjust until corrected.
Pro tip: Make sure not to over correct or pull your shoulders back unnaturally, this will work against your efforts. Just let it all happen naturally with time, with these tips you will get there!
Tip 3. Fix Head Forward Posture
If you have head forward posture it can place extra stress on the muscles around the shoulders which can lead to poor shoulder posture. This can happen in two ways. Firstly, it can cause the muscles that attach from the neck to the shoulders to work under stretch or work in positions that make their job more difficult. This in turn can create pain and trigger point activity in those muscles but like a cascade effect can also create tension and compensation in other muscles around the shoulders and shoulder blades.
Secondly, the nerves that come out from the neck down into your shoulders, upper back and arms can be put under stress. When these nerves get stressed they send signals that tell the muscles they are in control of to tighten. This is a protective mechanism because all the nerves feel is danger, they don’t necessarily know what is wrong or where. This over reaction can create a lot more pain than you bargained for.
Try this exercise…
This is one of my favourite exercises to help head forward alignment and thus, shoulder posture! Sit or stand in front of a mirror, imagine your chin is sitting on a shelf. Gently slide your chin back off the shelf until you feel the first point of resistance. Do 5-10 repetitions. I like to do this throughout my day by incorporating it with going to the bathroom. Doing small amounts more often will have a quicker effect.
Once you’ve been doing this for about a week or 2, you can try adding some over pressure to push slightly beyond that first point of resistance. If you have neck pain or suffer from headaches, just stick to the basic or come get some personalised advice from us by booking a Online Consultation. Here’s some more tips to help correct a head forward posture.
A few more tips…
- Seeing is believing! Set up your video camera and watch yourself at your desk, watching TV, on your phone or doing a workout. Sometimes simply seeing what you’re doing incorrect can help you to adjust. Record yourself again doing it correctly so you can associate the new feeling with the correct head posture.
- Lift your gaze. Get your screen higher whether it’s your desktop, laptop or iphone, try using books or pillows to prop up the screen to a better height. Same when you are working out, lift your gaze slightly until you feel your head is alignment with your spine. This one tip can help your shoulder posture a lot!
- Strengthen your neck muscles. People have generally become a bit scared of working out the neck muscles in fear that it will create neck pain. It’s quite the opposite, weakness is associated with far more pain than strength! A great neck workout is to lie face down and perform your head retractions explained above. Just imagine sliding your chin off the shelf. Start with 1 set of 5 and work your way up to 3 sets of 10 over time. This can be done on hands and knees rather than on your belly if you prefer just try to resist dropping your head to far forward on the relax phase though!
I hope you enjoyed the tips and that you have found something that can help you to improve your pain and help you thrive. If you love what we do, please come join @myothrive on instagram and facebook, I know you will love our content! We are a team of musculoskeletal professionals with a broad skillset. If you have any questions get in contact. Here’s the link again if you think you need some personalised advice with a Online Consultation 🙂