It is not hard to find examples of rounded shoulder posture in the world around you, or examples of rounded shoulders before and after. A large percentage of the population slouches as they walk, sit, or stand. This stance may even be fashionable if the postures of many actors, actresses, and presenters on the red carpet at this year’s Oscars is any indication!
Check your own tendency for rounded shoulders by standing comfortably and letting your hands rest at your side. Observe where your palms are facing. If your palms are facing toward the back, your chest muscles may be tight, causing your shoulders to hunch forward. Your shoulders are probably resting where they belong if your thumbs face forward and your palms face toward your thighs.
Rounded shoulders can become habitual as you repeatedly over time sit in front of a computer, drive a vehicle, or watch TV slouched in a couch. The habit can start early, as you slump forward to protect yourself from the world around you, including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, or in the case of many women, to try to make your breasts less noticeable. If you are a runner or a cyclist, you are likely to round your shoulders in your sport. If you lift weights to develop your “pecs”, you may create pectoral (chest) muscles that are so strong that they bring your shoulders forward.
Anatomy of Rounded Shoulder Posture
When you slouch with shoulders forward, the muscles in the upper back and neck strain, overstretch and overwork. When the shoulders slump, the chest muscles shorten, the small muscles between the shoulder blades weaken, and the back muscles stretch and lengthen, which, in turn, increases the tendency to slump. Over time, the functioning of your spine and your arms are affected, breathing becomes more difficult, and your internal organs are affected. This postural repetitive stress injury can contribute to osteopenia, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis in the joints and bones.
Although numerous muscles are involved and affected, the pectoralis minor muscles are the star players in rounded shoulder posture. As you keep rounding your shoulders, your pectoralis minor muscles become short and tight. As a result, two back muscles, the mid-trapezius and the rhomboids overstretch and grow weak. Smaller muscles that were not designed to be postural muscles have to work hard doing a job they weren’t meant to do and chronic tension develops in the neck, shoulders and upper back.
Reversing Rounded Shoulder Posture
If you want to prevent or correct rounded shoulder posture, you can start by practicing yoga for posture or fitness movements that awaken the affected muscles described above so those muscles can support your new awareness and your new posture. In my blog posts next week I’ll be featuring some poses that will tune up your shoulders and exercises to improve posture! You can also add the therapy ball sequence included in the Yoga Tune Up® QuickFix Shoulder DVD. Start reversing unhealthy shoulder habits now and your body will thank you for it down the road!
Discover our shoulder exercises and shoulder pain solutions.
Watch our free 5 minute shoulder pain relief video.
Read our post about “How to get Olympic Inspired Shoulders.”