As a follow-up to our last blog about shoulder impingements, we will discuss a variety of stretching and strengthening exercises that can help to alleviate tight muscles and correct the ever common round shoulder posture.
The forward shoulders or “rounded” shoulder posture is seen far too often with patients that suffer from shoulder pain. As we discussed in the shoulder impingement blog, forward or round shoulders cause the humeral head to not sit centered in the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint). This forward posture can cause a lack of space in the lateral and/or anterior area of the subacromial space of the shoulder.
Rounded or forward posture can develop for a variety of reasons: poor ergonomics at work, overall weak posture muscles, or repetitive activities that cause increased muscle tone in the front portion of the shoulder or body. No matter what the cause of the poor posture–which may lead to shoulder pain and dysfunction–it CAN improve with proper stretches and strengthening exercises.
The stretches and strengthening exercises listed are meant to be used a guideline to help improve forward or rounded posture. These stretches will not apply to everyone’s shoulder issues. There are many shoulder issues that can develop in the shoulder and a proper evaluation by an upper extremity professional is needed to determine your individual therapy needs and custom plan of care.
With forward posture the muscles in the front of the body become tight or shortened over time. The following stretches will focus on loosening these muscles and/or shoulder capsule.
Pectoral Stretch: This stretch is meant to stretch out the tight pectoral muscles across the chest and front of the shoulder. This stretch can be done in the corner of a room using the wall. Place the hands about shoulder height and lightly stretch into the corner, as if putting your nose into the corner.
External Shoulder Rotation Stretch: With forward posture, most individuals will have strong internal rotation of the shoulder; this stretch will open up the shoulder and externally rotate it. Place the arm on the doorframe and turn the body away from the arm, causing a light stretch.
Posterior Capsule Stretch: When the shoulder sits forward for a period of time, as it does with rounded or forward posture, the posterior capsule on the back of the shoulder becomes tight and makes it difficult for the shoulder to sit back. This stretch will stretch that backside of the shoulder, the posterior capsule. Allow the arm being stretched to relax and use the other arm to pull it across the body. The stretch should be felt on the backside of the shoulder.
Upper Trapezius Stretch: Most individuals carry a lot of stress and tightness in the muscles on top of the shoulders. These become tense and can cause soreness and pain in the muscle that leads from the top of the shoulder blade to the neck (upper trapezius). This stretch is beneficial in loosening this often-tight and tense muscle.
Here are few exercises that will target some of the most common muscle groups that are weak with forward posture. Again, further evaluation by a professional is needed to assess an individual’s specific need. Most of these exercises are done with a band, but can also be done with or without free-weights with slight modifications. Please contact us with any modification questions for various exercises. We can be reached by phone at 320.335.2515 OR via email at [email protected]. And, as always, feel free to stop by our office at 220 22nd Ave East, Alexandria, MN!
Scapular Retraction (with band): The muscles that pull the shoulder and the shoulder blade back are often weak with forward rounded posture. This exercise will strengthen these muscles. Often “winging” of the shoulder blade can be seen when these muscles are weak. When doing this exercise the shoulder blades should be doing all the work to pinch them together and downward.
Shoulder External Rotation (with band): This was also the name of a stretch listed above. This exercise strengthens the group of muscles on the back of the shoulder to allow for better posture. The elbow should be kept at the side throughout the exercise and the arm will rotate outward (externally) against resistance.
Shoulder Rolls: Most people have done this from time to time to loosen up the shoulders when they feel tight. This can be done to roll the shoulders up, back, and down. Hold the shoulders in this back and downward position at the end for a short 3-second count. (Feel the shoulder blades slightly pinch together on this hold.)
Back Extension: This may prove to be the most difficult exercise for most. Lying on your stomach, hands at your side or behind your back, lift your chest off the ground. Do not raise your neck backward; keep your chin tucked and neck straight. This will strengthen back extensor muscles that are typically weak.
There are many more stretches and strengthening exercises that may be beneficial for posture correction. If you are having pain in the shoulder with certain movements and it is not going away, I cannot stress the importance of having an evaluation by a professional. Just one visit can help you determine what areas of the shoulder are affected and a detail home program will help you progress in a correct and effective manner.
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