Shoulders and Postural Correction
Mark Wahlen, Corrective Exercise Specialist
31 December 2019
Poor posture plagues a vast majority of the human population. Working long hours at a computer, certain professions required leaning and bending forward and the classic “texting posture” are a few ways proper posture can get away from us. Corrective exercise for shoulder pain and posture will steer your body in the right direction towards proper functional movement.
What causes poor posture?
Muscles adapt to the demands placed upon them. As certain muscles spend day after day in a shortened position, those muscles will adapt and stay short when your body moves. A tight and short muscles will have an antagonist muscle that helps to perform the opposite movement such as the bicep and tricep muscles. The antagonist muscle will become long and weak as the tight muscle continues to dominate.
This is what we call a muscle imbalance and there is only one way to correct it; we must relax and lengthen the tight muscles and strengthen the weak antagonist muscles. This is achieved by seeing a well trained massage therapist, foam rolling and self myofascial release techniques and stretching the tight muscles while utilizing corrective exercises to target specific weakened muscles. With time, patience and dedication, long-term changes can be made. Corrective muscle imbalances prevents injury, lessens pain and prevents all sorts of ailments from tension headaches to back pain.
“With time, patience and dedication, long-term changes can be made.“
Corrective exercise for poor posture
External shoulder rotation
As the spine takes on a hunched position, a few things happen. Immediately the shoulders round forward causing the pectoral muscles to become short and tight. The muscles of the upper back and the external rotators of the shoulder, therefore, become long and weak.
Use an exercise cord or band and hold in each hand with palms facing up. Position hands shoulder width apart with elbows bent to 90 degrees and pinned to your sides. The hands are going to rotate away from the body to achieve external rotation of the shoulders.
Add shoulder retraction
At the end range of external rotation, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a few seconds before releasing. Adding shoulder retraction targets the rhomboid muscles and helps to strengthen the upper back.
Movement compensations will make or break your progress
Watch your form carefully as to not go through these exercises incorrectly. If they are done incorrectly, proper progress will not be made and you can even make things worse. Common compensations that happen with shoulder external rotation and retraction exercises:
Head coming forward
Make sure the head stays positioned properly over the head and the chin stays tucked. The head should not move forward as you move into shoulder retraction.
Upper traps taking the lead
Another common compensation is allowing the upper traps to shrug up towards the ears. Make sure the shoulders stay down and back. It can be helpful to watch yourself in the mirror to check your form.