Heads up: your posture shapes who you are. In the case of rounded shoulders – an unnatural position where your shoulders are hunched and your head thrust forward – your everyday posture could be causing this uncomfortable condition.
Rounded shoulders isn’t just awkward looking, it’s also bad for your health. Serious medical conditions can result from rounded shoulders, including chronic tension that can lead to injury or dislocation, as well as long-term neck tension and headaches. In severe cases, rounded shoulders can also increase the risk of osteoporosis.
It’s clear that rounded shoulders should be taken seriously. While there’s no cure-all for rounded shoulders, you can self-treat by correcting your bad posture. Let’s look at some exercises for how to fix rounded shoulders.
What causes rounded shoulders?
Rounded shoulders is simply caused by bad posture. It’s especially common in this modern age, as we spend long periods of time sitting during the day. Whether at the office, in the car or at home, it’s easy to slack off with our posture.
Medically, your shoulders are being pulled forward instead of back. This happens for two reasons. First, your shoulder muscles have been tightened and shortened from disuse, pulling your shoulders up and forward. Second, other muscles have become weakened and aren’t able to correct and pull your shoulders back again. To correct rounded shoulders, you’ll have to both stretch and strengthen certain muscles. This model is the basis for correcting rounded shoulders in practice.
7 exercises that can help fix rounded shoulders
Overall, these exercises are focused on strengthening your core, upper back and chest muscles. It’s important to be responsible about the exercises you do. Certain exercises can actually make rounded shoulders worse instead of better. Follow these medically-approved exercises to improve rounded shoulders in the long run.
The plank exercise is to strengthen your lower back and core muscles, which aid in correcting head and shoulders alignment. The idea behind the plank is to prop up your body using your forearms and toes and engage your core, while keeping everything in a straight line. Your lower back should stay lifted and not curve downwards.
How to do it: Try to hold the plank position for 5-10 seconds at a time, for 8-10 repetitions every day.
The bridge stretch is another great lower back exercise that will help strengthen those muscles involved with your posture. To perform this stretch, lie down on your back and place your feet flat next to your bottom by bending your knees. Your body should remain aligned from your knees up.
How to do it: Do the bridge stretch 8-10 times every day.
According to the National Health Service, pull-ups are an accessible and easy way to strengthen your chest muscles. To do one, you need to find rail, bar or even a tree branch. You can perform this exercise by standing next to the bar and grabbing it with both hands. Then, lean back and pull yourself up to the bar once again. This “pull-up” movement works all areas of your core, upper back and chest.
How to do it: Do 6-10 pull-ups as slowly as you want. The key here is to feel the stretch.
This stretch is used to strengthen your chest, of course. For this exercise, you should put your arms behind your back and lace your fingers. Then stretch your shoulders back. Your back should not arch, but rather stay straight.
How to do it: Hold for 6-8 seconds and repeat as needed.
To strengthen your upper back, you can also do the rotation exercise. Just sit in a chair and fold your arm over your chest. Then, twist to the right and to the left. This will activate your chest and core muscles.
How to do it: Do it 6-8 times until you feel the stretch.
- Door press
The door press is another stretch that works your chest muscles. Simply stand in front of a door frame and press one hand on either side of it. Then, lunge past the frame so that you get a good stretch through your chest and shoulders.
How to do it: Hold for 20-30 seconds.
- Upward and downward dog
Finally, this common yoga pose is great for all three muscle groups: core, chest and upper back. Get your body in a “tent” position with your hands under your shoulders and your hips lifted back and up. In this position, consider your head-to-toe alignment. Then, as you move into upward dog, stretch down until your hips are hovering above the ground. Your chest should be lifted and give a good stretch.
How to do it: Hold each position for 20-30 seconds each.
These seven exercises will help you improve your rounded shoulders, so you can look and feel more comfortable. As you correct your rounded shoulders, be sure to track your posture during the day. Are you slouching at your computer, or while you’re standing in line? Be aware of how you are placing your body, so that these exercises won’t be counteracted by your daily posture. If you’re looking for more exercises, check out these desk exercises that will help you stay fluid and flexible as you work during the day, too.
Rounded shoulders can also be made worse by sitting or driving for long periods, carrying heavy objects or using a phone or computer in a slouching position. Be aware of your posture during these key moments as well.
Alternative treatment for rounded shoulders
While these seven exercises will correct rounded shoulders, you can also look to other alternatives to aid your shoulder posture. Nowadays, many are looking towards yoga and pilates for providing recovery stretches for posture problems. You may consider signing up for a yoga class to get a full range of stretching exercises that are helpful for rounded shoulders.
Moreover, new stretching methods and programs such as the Mckenzie Method have shown positive results. This comprehensive method is especially studied in research as an option for rounded shoulders. You may also look at posture programs such as the Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais for a posture overhaul. Lastly, some patients with rounded shoulders have also had great success seeing a chiropractor or physical therapist to work on posture with an expert eye.
We hope these seven exercises get you on the path to correcting your rounded shoulders!
About Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic in Anchorage. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.