With more and more time spent on the phone and the computer, you may have noticed that your shoulders want to roll forward and your head isn’t quite over your shoulders. While not limited to office workers and cell phone addicts, they are certainly more at risk for developing these two specific postures - forward rolled shoulders and anterior head carriage.
While not likely to give you any problems after a week or two, long-term poor posture such as this can lead to pain and dysfunction.
The body is tremendously capable of adapting to the stresses that we place upon it. Take a competitive baseball player for example. They will have greater range of motion (specifically external rotation) of the dominant arm compared to the non-dominant arm. While training, strength, and repetition certainly play a role in this finding, it has also been found that they will often have humeral head retroversion on the dominant side. This means that the head of the humerus is actually turned slightly backward in order to help facilitate that greater range of motion that they need in order to throw a ball. See a study on humeral head retroversion in competitive baseball players here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17939610/
Sometimes, however, this can work against us if we condition the body to assume poor postures and if we continue to practice poor movement patterns. The body will change based on what we continually tell it to do, for better or for worse.
What is responsible for the shoulders and head wanting to fall forward? A combination of some muscles being too turned on (hypertonic) and some muscles being not turned on enough (weak/inhibited).
Neck pain is common in these individuals and they often present with a similar finding - they have been stretching their traps out for weeks and they are still full of knots that won’t go away. When something is chronically tight and won't loosen up no matter what they do to it - massage, stretch, foam roll, lacrosse ball, etc. - it is important to take a look and see if there is a reason that those muscles are so tight.
The traps are often tight because of a variety of reasons, one of which being that we tend to carry our stress in the shoulders, but they often struggle to relax because they are doing double duty. When the deep neck flexors on the front of the neck are not doing their job (inhibited) and holding the head up in its proper position, the traps become responsible for holding on tight (hypertonic) so the head doesn’t roll completely forward.
Picture holding a bowling ball up in the air. The bowling ball is your head and your forearm is your neck. How are you going to hold it? With the forearm straight and close to your body, you could likely hold that bowling ball for a long time. As the forearm drifts away from the body, that bowling ball becomes significantly harder to hold onto for any prolonged period of time. Our neck has a much easier time supporting our head when it is in a good position.
How can we fix this issue? Three things:
Stretching hypertonic muscles
Strengthening inhibited muscles
Better body positioning
What muscles are tight when we are in this posture? Any combination of the traps, levators, cervical paraspinals, pec, and lats. Stretch these!
What muscles are inhibited when we are in this posture? Any combination of the deep neck flexors, rhomboids, middle, and lower traps. Strengthen these!
Lastly, be aware of what your body is doing. That can be anything from just mentally checking in every so often to completely overhauling your workstation or anything in between that helps you to not only recognize when you are falling into those poor postures, but also doing whatever you can in the environment around you to limit the chance of you assuming that pattern.
The team here at SportsPlus will be happy to help you with any or all of these suggestions - stretching, strengthening, or redesigning your workstation. Small changes can make a big difference.
When you move better, you live better.
Schedule an appointment or free consultation today!