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How to “Fix” Rounded Shoulders

As physical therapists, we often answer questions pertaining to “poor posture.” One of the most common reports from our patients in Bethesda and Chevy Chase is having “forward shoulders.”

The solution to this, which is often taught by other physical therapists, is to stretch the muscles in the front of the shoulders. The most common of these muscle groups is the pecs.

The logic goes something like this. “Your pecs are tight and pulling your shoulders forward. If you stretch them, your shoulders can move back and correct your posture.”

While this reasoning isn’t necessarily wrong, it is shortsighted. It fails to question why muscles like the pecs became tight in the first place. Simply stretching these muscles won’t correct the root cause of the issue.

The shoulder complex rests on top of the rib cage and the pecs attach to the sternum (ribs 1-7 attach to the sternum) as well as the ribs on the front of the rib cage.

As we breath in the rib cage should expand in 360 degrees and as we breath out it should do the opposite.

People with forward shoulders and stiff pecs often have difficulty expanding the front part of their rib cage during a relaxed breath in. This prevents the pecs from lengthening fully and often causes them to remain stiff, pulling the shoulders forward.

If you are looking to improve your posture and “pull your shoulders back”, the solution must include breathing exercises that emphasis relaxation and expansion of the chest/front part of the rib cage.

Here is an example from our YouTube page that illustrates this concept.

If you are looking to improve your posture or shoulder function, contact us now!

Photo Credit

“Orlando’s Poor Posture” by hewy is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0