Do you have constant neck pain or shoulder pain, or both? Take a look around you, and you will notice most people experience this same problem.
It’s easy to spot: people at work may have a hunched-over appearance or complain regularly about back pain.
Slouching has been prevalent even before the age of mobile phones.
From students doing homework on their desks to office workers being in front of their computers all day, slouching seems to have a soothing effect for sitting all day.
However, this often leads to poor upper body posture or “rounded shoulders.”
What are Rounded Shoulders?
Forward head rounded shoulders (FHRS) refers to the positioning of the head and shoulder with the upper body.
It is a fairly common condition. Actually, most of us can be categorized under this.
If your shoulders are rounded forward, you have misaligned body posture.
You can do a simple test in front of a mirror. Stand and let your arms hang loosely at your sides.
Are your palms naturally point inward or outward?
If they are facing outward away from your thighs, you possibly have tight chest muscles, which in turn develop rounded shoulders.
Have someone take a look at you from the side, facing either your left or right shoulder.
The deltoid muscle consists of three separate heads: the anterior, medial, and posterior head. Ideally, the medial section of the deltoid would be facing directly at them.
It would be like looking straight ahead, and your cheekbone is in a straight line slightly anterior of your clavicle or directly superior of it.
You have rounded shoulders when your shoulders appear rounded forward, and the posterior head of the deltoid is facing more anterior.
Your head is more forward than usual, which gives the appearance of a turtle-like posture.
Causes and Effects of Rounded Shoulders
In most cases, rounded shoulders are correctable. These may be caused by several reasons apart from simply slouching:
- Poor exercise technique: not enough back exercises, too many chest exercises
- Lazy upper body posture
- Long hours at your desk
- Hunching over in front of your laptop
- Overdeveloped chest with a weak back
- Driving a car, hunched over
- Using a smartphone or tablet
- Bending over repeatedly
- Carrying heavy objects all the time
Please take note, however, that the most common mistake we do is slumping our backs.
We do this for several reasons, and the worst part is we’re not aware that we’re doing it. At times, we slouch our backs when we want to relax or when we are simply tired.
You may also do this when you speak to a friend outside in the street, and you become oblivious of how you’re standing.
Why is slouching your back that bad for your posture? The main reason here is that slouching will bend the natural curvature of your spine.
It gets out of shape and puts extra stress on the muscle that holds it together. As a result, the muscle tightens, and you will experience back pains.
Some people develop Lordosis, a posture problem that can cause the lower spine to curve out and tilt the pelvis.
Most lower back problems stem from this condition, including Sciatica nerve problems, or even worse, can cause more severe health issues.
Your internal organs will suffer if you have a titled pelvis as they can be moved out of their proper place. This can cause conditions such as acid reflux or GERD.
Common Areas of Pain
Rounded shoulders collapse the chest and decrease the capacity of the lungs. These can cause headaches, pain in your entire back and shoulders.
Tight chest muscles make your shoulders fall forward place excessive pressure on your upper back. Shoulder rounding causes a muscle imbalance between your upper back and chest.
You’re not helping the situation by hunching over when you sit.
Your muscles are lengthened when you slouch. This makes the imbalance between your stretched back muscles and tight chest more pronounced.
You place a strain on your cervical spine when you let your shoulders fall forward when you sit or stand.
Research has shown that this strain quickens the degeneration of discs in the cervical spine and may lead to more problems such as a disc herniation.
How to Fix Rounded Shoulders at Home
Exercise is essential, but remember that posture is mostly the result of how you perceive your body and your postural habits. You can only help corrective strengthening exercises by making better choices about your shoulders.
To help fix rounded shoulders, follow an exercise program that combines working with your strength and mobility, and stretching. Your goal is to strengthen your back, increase your mobility, and loosen your chest muscles.
Keep a journal of your progress and set a goal to improve your posture.
Most importantly, be watchful of your upper body posture. Stand upright, sit up straight, and keep your shoulders back.
The following exercise program is something you can do at home to help improve posture and fix rounded shoulders.
Foam-roll chest stretch
- Lie on the floor on your back.
- Place a foam roller under your head and run it down the length of your spine.
- Raise your hands above your shoulders, engage your core, face your palms toward each other, and point your fingers to the ceiling.
- Bring your arms down to the sides of your body. Your body would be cross-like.
- Try touching the floor using the back of your hands.
- Hold it for 5 minutes, then release.
Door frame standing chest stretch
- In the center of a door frame, engage your core by standing up straight.
- Raise your arms to the side of your body, and that your elbows are at shoulder height.
- Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and face your palms away from you.
- Place your palms, forearms, and elbows on each door frame and slightly lean forward.
- Hold this position for 1 minute and do the same with your one arm on the door jam and the other resting on your side. Hold this for 1 minute, then switch arms.
- Repeat single arm chest stretches using your elbow at a 45-degree angle. Hold for 1 minute then switch.
Standing T-stretch palms facing posteriorly
- Stand up straight. Lift your arms straight to your side and engage your core.
- Spin your arms so that your thumbs are pointing down with your palms facing behind you.
- Gently pull your arms back as far as you possibly can. Hold this for 1 minute then repeat.
Prone Thumb Raise
- Lie face down on the floor – this is the prone position.
- Your body should be in a Y position with your arms out in a 45-degree angle.
- Spin the arms outwards, clench your hands into a fist, with thumbs pointing up.
- Pinch your shoulder blades together.
- Then lift your straight arms off the ground.
- Move your arms up and down 15 times and remember to pinch your shoulder blades together before you raise your arms in each rep.
- Do the prone position with your arms next to your sides, legs straight and palms down.
- Contract the muscles of your lower back and glutes, life your head, chest, arms, and legs off the floor.
- At the same time, spin your arms, so your thumbs are pointing to the ceiling.
- By now, the only parts touching the floor would be your hips. Hold this for 1 minute.
Reverse Chest Pull with Elastic Band
- Grasp an elastic band with both hands and hold it at shoulder width apart. The tension of the band should be strong.
- Engage your core, stand up straight, and lift your arms in front of your shoulders.
- Pinch your shoulder blades together before you move your arms; then move your straight arms out to your sides.
- Hold this outstretched position for a few seconds, and make sure you pinch your shoulder blades together.
- Bring your arms in front of your shoulders. Do this for 15 reps.
Stand against a wall as straight as you can and place both your arms against it.
Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle with the back of your arms touching the surface of the wall.
Slide your arms down and hold it for a second, then slide them back up the wall as high as you can until your most comfortable point.
Return to starting position and do five reps.
When you do each of the movement, your glutes, shoulders, elbows, and back of your hands should be touching the wall.
Don’t roll your shoulders forward or thrust your head forward to do this. Keep your shoulder blades together, and keep your head high.
Do this program every other day. With each week, you progress, increase the intensity. For instance, you can do 1 set of each exercise for the first week, then add a set for the next week, and so on.
When you are up to 4 sets, you can further increase the intensity by including more shoulder exercises and adding weights.
Prevent Shoulder Problems
As with almost any cure, there are preventive steps you can take. Several athletes and physically active people undergo shoulder problems – stiffness, weakness, or pain or sometimes combined.
There’s a whole different risk to avoid apart from too much activity – inactivity.
Your shoulder can also get worn down from long hours spent scrolling with your mouse, tapping computer keys, and basically not getting out to move enough.
The apparent key to preventing the development of posture related problems is to keep your muscles healthy and active. Even if you begin to notice the signs of rounded shoulders in yourself, once you have recognized it, you are one more step on your way to fixing it.
You can do this simple self-care exercise that you can perform 3-4 times a week.
- Stand against a wall, bend your knees comfortably with 6 feet to 8 inches from the baseboard. Place your arms above your head so that your bent elbows are in a straight line angle with your shoulders.
- Tilt your pelvic, flatten out your lumbar curve, and pull your belly button to your spine to protect your lower back.
- Press your entire upper back, arms, hands, wrists, and shoulders securely against the wall. You may not get it right on your first try, and that’s okay. Repeat this until you see your position improve.
- Then, keep your wrists and elbows in touch with the wall, and slowly lower your elbows in line with your waistline, or lower as you can without your elbows or wrists lifting from the wall.
- Briefly pause, then get back to the starting position, with your wrists and elbows still touching the wall.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 for a couple more times, pause for a break, then return for another set.
Balance for Fixing Bad Back
For every squatting movement or forward pressing you do, superset it with a hip dominant movement or pulling to focus more on your hamstrings and glutes. You want to make sure that you work all parts of your core, especially your lower back.
This means that you will need to do a back or hip extension movement directly after a sit-up or ab crunch exercises.
It’s not as complicated as you may think. The thing to remember is that it all boils down to being in balance.
The Chinese often call it yin and yang. The same concept applies to your body.
If your front side is too strong and tight, your body becomes rounded forward, and your back becomes weak.
Therefore, it is crucial to stretch out the muscles on the front of your body, all while strengthening your back muscles.
Also, if your stomach is getting too big, it can throw your balance off as well.
Strengthen your hamstrings, glutes, lower back and shoulders by doing the various exercises in the program.
These exercises make them work in a full range of motion.
Improve your posture and fix rounded shoulders by incorporating the program into your routine.
Be sure to check on your posture throughout the day and keep your journal in monitoring your progress.
You will see a noticeable improvement in posture in no time.