Your Mother Was Right
Rounded Shoulders Can Lead to Health Problems
By Chris Wood, R.M.T., B.A., B.Ed., D.S.W.
Like most of the readers of my age or older we grew up listening to our parents telling us not to slouch as we would get rounded shoulders. I can still remember my grandmother telling me to stick my chest out, pull my shoulders back and stomach in. Regardless of who said it, good posture really is important not just for our appearance but for our health.
If you go to any large gathering these days you will quickly notice that many people have rounded or slouched shoulders. Some people might even suggest that we have an epidemic of poor posture on our hands.
With new technologies, most peoples’ daily activities now include computer work, texting, or playing video games. Each of these activities require us to engage and strengthen our pectoral/chest muscles while ignoring the opposite (antagonist) muscles in the back. In time our chest muscles strengthen and tighten while the back muscles, which receive less exercise, are weakened and stretched causing the rounded shoulder.
As a Registered Massage Therapist I often see people with rounded shoulders come into my clinic. Usually they complain about pain in their upper back, which happens when certain muscles in the back, namely the rhomboids, get pulled beyond their natural stretch length and tie knots, otherwise known as trigger points, in an attempt to stop the stretch and bring them back to their normal length. Even now, if you hunch your shoulders forward you can feel the pull on the muscles of your upper back.
Without modifications to these habits, the continually tightening pectoral muscles will begin to pull the upper arm, the humerus, out of the shoulder socket known as the glenohumural joint. When the humerus comes out of its joint, even partially, it begins to press against a variety of muscles and nerves causing a great deal of pain and a loss of range of motion and function. At this point, many muscles in the arm, shoulder, and back will begin to go into spasm to prevent painful and dangerous movements.
Since this condition happens over an extended period of time, the joint capsule behind the humerus tightens, making it difficult for the humerus to move back into place. At this time there is the added risk of nerves and muscles being impinged in the shoulder joint should the humerus be forced back into the joint incorrectly. If the problem is not corrected quickly the pain can become chronic which can cause even more complications.
The good news is that this problem is reversible with the help of a Chiropractor and a Registered Massage Therapist. Through a series of treatments, the Massage Therapist will relax the muscles in the shoulder and the joint capsule allowing the Chiropractor to safely restore appropriate motions and positioning of the humerus. Throughout this time stretching and strengthening exercises will also be prescribed to restore a healthy balance between the muscles of the chest and back.