Stroll through any office and you'll see row after row of people hunched over their desks, with their heads shooting forward and shoulders rounded. Even when out and about, you'll see people on their cell phones holding that same head-shoulders forward position.
This all-too-common position can lead to some extremely common issues, including migraines, jaw pain, and the dreaded tech neck. Most people know they should respond when pain like this occurs, but when it’s “just” a posture problem, few people take action.
What’s the common posture problem almost everyone has? Rounded shoulders. It’s so pervasive that we think it’s ordinary, yet as we’ll see below, ignoring hunched shoulders can lead to a number of bigger, more painful issues.
What Causes Rounded Shoulders?
At its core, rounded shoulders result from poor posture habits, too much focus on certain exercises, and muscle imbalances. For a majority of people, they stem from spending too much time slouching in front of a computer or phone, with the shoulders forward and down.
Other causes of rounded shoulders are:
- Driving or riding in a car
- Sitting for long periods
- Focusing exercises that bring the arms forward and tighten the chest
- Carrying heavy objects
The Core Cause of Rounded Shoulders
At its core, one primary muscle that causes rounded shoulders is the pectoralis minor — an often forgotten muscle that attaches the shoulder and the ribs. This muscle contracts when we move the shoulders forward.
When we keep a forward position for hours, every day, for weeks on end, we slowly train the pectoralis minor to stay contracted. It quickly gets the message that it should stay in this position, making it harder for it to relax and move back. Over time, this creates the unsightly rounded shoulders we’re all familiar with.
Our bodies aren’t isolated systems. When one muscle pulls forward, another goes slack. A chronically tight muscle, then, can get into a tug-of-war with muscles responsible for opposing movements. In the case of the pec minor, this can include muscles throughout the shoulders and upper back, spreading tightness throughout our body.
A few posture-related problems that often stem from pec minor tightness:
- Tech neck
- Tight upper traps
- Shoulder pain
- Pain between the shoulder blades
How Do You Tell You Have Rounded Shoulders?
The first thing to check is how your shoulders sit in a resting position when you’re standing upright.
Step 1: Stand in front of a mirror, letting your hands hang naturally by your sides.
Step 2: Look at your shoulders. Do they seem a little slumped? Straighten them out then relax once again, see if they fall into the same position.
Step 3: Look at your thumbs; do they point forward? Slouching shoulders tend to turn our hands inward, making the thumbs point towards each other.
If this quick test reveals your shoulders are rounded, don’t panic! We’ve got a great solution that can start repairing your muscle tightness and posture problems in a jiffy.
Temporarily Relieve Rounded Shoulders
Just as you trained your muscles and joints to hunch forward, you can also retrain them to relax back to their normal, correct resting position. This can be done through a combination of modalities, including stretching, exercise, and muscle release.
Stretching to Release Shoulder Muscles
Stretches release muscle tightness and tension by boosting blood flow to the impacted muscles. You can use any number of shoulder, upper back, and chest stretches to temporarily relieve a tight pectoralis minor muscle. Stretches on their own won’t remove the tension for long, however. As soon as you go back to your usual routine, you may find the rounded shoulders (and pain!) return.
Rubbing to Increase Muscle Relaxation
When you rub a tight shoulder muscle, it may relax a little because you'll increase flexibility and blood circulation. As is the case with stretching, though, a rubbed muscle will regain tension pretty quickly. It may feel good to massage these muscles, but it won’t train them to relax and return to their normal resting position.
Exercising to Correct Muscle Imbalance
Some exercises can help strengthen your core, upper back, and chest muscles to correct rounded shoulders. These include planks, pull-ups, push-ups, band pull-aparts, shoulder external rotation exercises, and other upper body movements. Exercises are best used in conjunction with the other modalities above and below, of course. Muscles don’t always respond well when we exercise them while they’re tight.
Fix Rounded Shoulders with Muscle Release Tools
The best way to relax specific muscles is to apply direct and prolonged pressure — in other words, applying sustained pressure without movement. This is distinctly different from rubbing or massage, and its benefits last much longer than stretching.
Prolonged pressure releases muscles like the pectoralis minor in as little as 30-90 seconds. When pressure is applied at just the right angle and in just the precise manner, it informs the brain that the muscle under pressure needs to relax. The brain responds, the muscle releases, and your pain and rounded shoulders melt away.
You’ll need the right tools to release your pec minor, however, as the pressure required to do this is precise. Tennis balls and similar implements won’t always work, as their surface is too broad or too round to pinpoint small muscles like the pec minor. That’s why we created the NUCKLE.
The NUCKLE was designed by a physical therapist specifically to release, relax, and realign the neck and shoulders. With three widths and six angles, it can adjust to every body type and apply clinically effective, specific pressure to relax tight muscles and reduce pain.
By releasing your pec minor on a daily basis you can permanently fix rounded shoulders, eliminate tech neck, and stand tall once again.