If you work in a job that requires sitting for prolonged periods of time, then your shoulders have likely rounded forward at some point. This is especially the case for office workers and truck drivers.
If your shoulders have shifted forward, there are simple fixes for rounded shoulders. It mostly requires remembering and repeating certain exercises.
These exercises can help you gain back the upper hand on your posture and overall well-being.
The Cat-Cow Pose is a common yoga pose. You can practice yoga in guided classes or on your own. Most basic yoga poses can be done at home.
This particular pose helps target the back and chest. These are the areas that are primarily affected by rounded shoulders.
To do this:
- Begin by kneeling on all fours on a mat or the floor.
- To ensure proper alignment, position your hands directly under your shoulders, your hips shoulder-width apart, and your spine in a neutral position.
- Your feet should be plantar-flexed, meaning that you point your toes away from your body. To do this, the top of your foot will touch over the floor.
- To move into the upward cat phase of the exercise, exhale and push your spine up as far as it will comfortably go towards the ceiling.
- Meanwhile, your chin will tuck in towards your chest.
- Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds.
- Next, transition into the downward cow phase by first inhaling. Slowly relaxing the back and letting your abdomen dip towards the floor.
- This should move your shoulder blades together and cause your back to arch.
- Hold this for 5 to 10 seconds and then return to the starting neutral position.
- Repeat 2 to 3 times.
You may have noticed a tighter-than-normal chest from rounded shoulders.
This is likely caused by the slightly forward posture of rounded shoulders that causes muscles of the chest to shorten and become tighter.
This chest stretch will help to open up the front body.
To do this:
- Start either seated or standing with your arms raised, elbows bent, and your hands interlocked on the back of your head.
- Imagine a tennis ball is sitting between your shoulder blades as you gently squeeze the shoulder blades together to hold it in place.
- Hold this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Remember to breathe.
- Repeat 2 to 3 times.
Make this move more comfortable by adjusting the height of your hands. For example, you can place your hands on top of your head or even a few inches above your head to get a different stretch.
For a deeper stretch, try doing this after a warm shower or after light exercise like walking, when your muscles are warmed up.
This fix incorporates something we all know how to do: breathe!
When our shoulders and upper back round forward, this can affect breathing by making it harder for the breathing motion of the diaphragm and the rib cage to occur, making breaths feel shallow.
Posture affects breathing, and you can use breathing to change your posture. As a bonus, some people find breathing practices a great way to reduce stress.
To do this:
- Start by finding a comfortable space that has minimal distractions.
- While your posture doesn’t need to be perfect, it should be upright enough that your chest feels open.
- Place a hand above your navel and another on your heart.
- Close your eyes.
- Close your mouth and take a deep breath in through your nose. You should feel your abdomen expanding underneath your hand.
- Hold for 2 to 4 counts.
- Breathe out through either the mouth or nose for another 2 to 4 counts.
- Repeat this same process for at least 60 seconds.
If you’re new to deep breathing, start with really short sessions. As you get more comfortable, you can gradually add more time to your practice.
Don’t want to do a breathing practice?
Try visualization or guided imagery meditation. Instead of focusing only on breathing, there are other meditation options you can use to relax muscles and improve body (and posture) awareness.
Reverse habits by adopting posture awareness. You can do this by implementing a “posture check” into your day.
It’s a quick and effective way to retrain your body to naturally adjust into the positions that promote proper alignment.
To do this:
- Start by standing against a wall. Your head, shoulder blades and butt should touch the wall. Your heels should be 6 inches away from the wall.
- Since the goal is to have less than 2 inches between your neck and the wall and your back and the wall, measure the spaces to ensure they meet this requirement. First, between your neck and the wall and then your back and the wall.
In the beginning weeks of doing these exercises, aim to do a posture check as often as you can. To really get into the habit, try doing it once an hour for a few days.
Once your posture improves over time, you can reduce the frequency of these checks while continuing to practice body awareness.
It may take several weeks to see major improvements in posture.
Rounded shoulders usually happen from repetitive movements and poses. “Text neck” is a similar posture-related issue. This term gets its name from the position your spine and shoulders make when you bend your neck forward and down. This happens when you do things like read a text, check Twitter, or try to beat your high score on Candy Crush.
Posture-related issues aren’t the only causes of rounded shoulders. Other potential causes include:
- thoracic kyphosis, also known as roundback, which can occur in osteoporosis
- scoliosis, an abnormal side to side curvature of the spine
- muscle weakness
- extra weight
- muscle imbalance, which can come from neglecting certain muscles during exercise
- carrying around heavy objects
If your rounded shoulders are caused by posture-related issues, such as sitting at a desk or constantly looking down, these exercises can help improve your posture. Doing these exercises, along with regular posture checks, can also help with other aspects of your health, including your breathing and muscle weakness.