Rounded shoulders and how to help them

Take a look at people around you, especially if they are sitting. See any rounded shoulders? I guarantee that once you start looking you will find more and more people that fall into this camp.

Sitting at a desk, slouching on the sofa, carrying heavy bags on your back, leaning forward to play with your kids on the floor or changing nappies, breastfeeding, driving, lifting heavy loads …all these activities can lead to rounded shoulders, tension in your back, neck and shoulders so pain in those areas and headaches.

What happens? Well it’s known as upper crossed syndrome. Here is how is affects your muscles:

The pectorals in your chest become tight and short. They need stretching and releasing.

The lower trapezius and serratus anterious (mid back and shoulder blades) become weak and need strengthening.

The upper trapezius and levator scapulae become tight (neck and shoulder area, the classic areas most people want massaged), these need releasing.  

The deep neck flexors are weak and lengthened, so need some strengthening and postural correction.

Some exercises to help:

1. Pectoral stretch on the wall: Put your hand against the wall with elbow at shoulder height. Rotate your body away from the wall to stretch through the pec (chest) and anterior deltoid (shoulder).

pectoral stretch

2.  Chin Tuck: Lie on your back in neutral. Push the chin down towards the chest while pushing the head into the floor.


3. Dumb waiter: Starting with the palm facing the ceiling, elbows bent and against your sides as if you have a tray of drinks on each hand. Rotate the arm out to about 45 degrees while maintaining a neutral wrist. Add a resistance band held over your palms and between thumb and first finger for more of a challenge.

Pilates with Priya: Dumb Waiter Start


Pilates with Priya: Dumb Waiter End

4. Scalenes and upper traps stretch: The scalenes are muscles in the sides of the neck. To stretch the right side, tilt your left ear to you left shoulder. You will feel a stretch through the right side of your neck. Now tilt your head up to look at the top corner of the room or the coving. The stretch will move from your neck to your upper back.  Place your left hand over your right eat and using gentle pressure push your ear into your hand and hand into your ear. Hold for 30 seconds.  Bring your head up slowly and roll the shoulders to release. Do the same for the left side. You can either sit or stand when doing this stretch.

scalenes stretch
5. Wall Angels : Stand with your back touching the wall, arms by your side. Engage your core, think about your posture, lengthen up through your spine and the crown of your head. Raise both arms up so you can still them slightly in front of you. As you breath out bend your elbows and think about your arms sliding down the wall behind you (they probably won’t actually touch the wall it is there as an aid). Bring your arms down to a right angle or a chicken wing position, then straighten them back up. You should feel this strenghtening in your shoulder blade and upper back area. Keep your neck long throughout.
Think about your posture as much as you can. These exercises will help but ultimately correcting your posture throughout the day will make the biggest difference. Try setting a reminder on your phone/screensaver or stick a post-it note somewhere as a visual. After a few weeks of working on your posture you should notice that you automatically remember to adjust your body and things feel better but keep working on it. It  is an ongoing lesson to complete!

Pilates with Priya:  wall angels exercise 1


Pilates with Priya:  wall angels exercise 1

Smartphones, chintucks and posture

There is no getting away from the world of smartphones and laptops these days, I’m writing this post on my laptop, with my smart phone beside me, so I’m certainly no techno-phobe. However, due to my training and the work I do, my eye is probably more tuned into posture. I can still get lulled into bad posture at the end of the day, the body is tired and there is still work to be done…. working on the sofa is an attractive option. I usually end up working on the floor. Too much pilates ruins oneself. the floor is where I am most comfortable!


So what are the issues?

Smart Phone Chin. Yes this really is a thing. We are talking about looking down at the screen of your phone as it is held in your hand. That bent neck may not feel like a problem, but over time:
the following can happen:

The facial skin can sag due to a loss in the elasticity in the muscles of the neck.
The neck muscles shorten, pulling on the jaw leading to a droopy jawline.
A crease can develop just above the collar bone from bending of the neck.
Marionette lines can appear from the corners of the mouth, down to your chin.
A double chin may occur.
Neck and shoulder pain.
Rounded shoulders cause upper back muscles to overstretch and chest muscles to tighten.

How? Well tilting your head forward means more force on the neck and shoulders. For example, a 12 lb head tilted forward by 3 inches causes almost 3 times the amount of pressure on the neck, head and upper back muscles. This means that 12lb head can feel like 48lb to your poor overworked upper body.

P.S I am pregnant in this picture, the bump is not part of the smart phone look!

Pilates with Priya: smartphone chin


6 Strategies to Help:

Obviously the best thing to do is to no longer use your smartphone. JOKING. That is not possible. In America people are having Botox and cosmetic surgery to fix things. A “ChinPlant” is becoming increasingly popular. Let’s hope that doesn’t take off in the UK.

I’ve a better idea. How about changing your posture? It’s cheaper, will help with neck and shoulder pain and is also long-lasting.

1. Bring your phone to eye level instead of tilting your head. Keep your neck long and check you are not rounding your shoulders.
2. Change positions regularly when using a laptop. Try standing, sitting at a desk, using a kneeling chair and working on the floor.
3. Use a hands free headset for calls.
4. The chin tuck exercise. Stand/Sit in a neutral posture. Long neck, ribcage dropped, shoulders down in the spine, chin level. Place 2 fingers on your chin, push gently so you tuck your chin and move your head back. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. This works well sat with a cushion or head rest behind you so you can feel the head moving back into it.

Pilates with Priya:  chintuck exercise 1
5. Wall Angels. Stand 4 inches away with your back to the wall. Your bum, spine and head are against the wall. Stand in neutral posture, engage the core and bring both arms up, with your elbows still in your line of vision. Breath out and bend your elbows so your shoulder blades slide down in your back and you feel a release in the upper spine.

Pilates with Priya:  wall angels exercise 1

Pilates with Priya:  wall angels exercise 1


6. Pectoral release. Stand in front to and to the side of a door frame. Place your hand on the door frame with your arm behind you. Turn away from your arm and release in your pectorals, your chest muscles.