Postural Dysfunction – The Shoulders
Postural dysfunction is the adaption that occurs in our bodies when a muscle, or group of muscles, are overworked and spend excessive amounts of time in poor postural positions as
a result of muscular imbalance (see previous article). Postural dysfunction can occur at several sites throughout the body, but our focus in this post is going to be on the dysfunction found in the shoulders. If you are unsure if you actually suffer from this, answering yes to any of the following questions will give you a good indicator that you are either on your way to, or already suffer from, postural dysfunction of the shoulders.
1. Do you sit hunched over for long periods of time?
2. Do you work at a computer?
3. Do you spend much time looking down at a mobile device?
4. Do you find that you get a sore neck and shoulders, and suffer from tension headaches?
5. If you go to the gym, do have a primary focus on pushing exercises?
So if you answered yes to any of those questions, I’ll try and explain to you what is happening and how you can go about getting relief and restoring your posture.
To break it down in simple terms, when we spend significant amount of time with our arms in front of us and our shoulders elevated, the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor & trapezius (a.k.a the muscles of our chest and upper shoulders) become shortened and over time they pull our shoulder girdle up and forwards. When this happens, we can end up with ‘rounded shoulders’ which doesn’t sound too bad, but the discomfort that can come from this position in some instances will limit our mobility and can interfere with some of our daily tasks. Now just because a muscle is shortened, doesn’t always equate to it being strong. While this is occurring on the front side of our bodies, the muscles on our back around our shoulder blades are being lengthened and under-utilised. The combination of shortened muscles on the front and lengthened muscles on the back leads to the postural dysfunction of our shoulders. This dysfunction can be heightened if there has been an injury that has not been properly rehabilitated.
To begin reversing the effects of your postural dysfunction, there are some things that you can do. Firstly, stretching the muscles of your chest more frequently should be high on your list. Doing one or two stretches daily, or even every second day, can bring about effective change in the muscular tightness of your chest. (Click here and jump to 0:48 seconds for chest stretch examples). The second thing you should is get a massage! An effective remedial massage will help break down the ‘knots’ found in your muscles providing relief and allowing future stretches to become even more effective. The third step, which most people neglect, is strengthening the muscles of your back. If you want to reduce your shoulders postural dysfunction, you have to strengthen the muscles that have been lengthened over time. This can be done either in the gym, or at home using body weight exercises. The final thing that you should be doing is, either sitting or standing, try and put your shoulders into ‘the ideal postural position’ (shoulder blades down and back), and then hold this position in 10 second intervals. As you progress with your stretching, massage and strengthening, you will find that you can hold the ideal position for longer with less discomfort.
For further information on how you can undo the effects of shoulder postural dysfunction, get in touch today! You can experience the relief that can come from massage and be given a series of specific strengthening exercises to get your shoulders moving the way they were intended.