Posture Tips to Keep Your Shoulders Down
Your posture is the upright position in which you hold your body to counter the downward effects of gravity. You may have developed poor postural habits that can cause or exacerbate neck, shoulder and back pain. Crunching your shoulders up to your ears is a common postural problem. Engaging in certain exercises and lifestyle changes can help correct this problem and promote a healthier, proper posture.
Seated Posture and Elevated Shoulders
Raised or hunched shoulders is a common postural abnormality that can result in increased instances of pain and throw your entire posture out of alignment. Poor seated posture is one of the most common causes of elevated shoulders and shoulder and arm pain, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Stress and other lifestyle factors, such as driving or sitting for long hours hunched over in front of your computer, can lead to poor seated postural positions, especially if you sit in an improper chair. A study published in 2004 in the journal, "Hand Clinics" explains that if your chair is too low, your shoulders and arms become elevated, while if your chair is too high, your shoulders bend forward. Using an ergonomic desk chair that allows your feet to sit flat on the floor can help improve your seated posture and allow your shoulders to relax.
Postural Awareness Tips
Developing postural awareness is one of the most important components of maintaining proper posture. Proper alignment while sitting or standing involves keeping your ears, shoulders and hips in a vertical line. If you notice that your shoulders are hunched up and you've been sitting for several hours, get up and move around. Although it can be tempting, you should not try to force your shoulders down or pull your shoulders back. In an article for his website, physiotherapist Antony Lo explains that pushing your shoulders down or back causes more tension and soreness. Focus on your posture when you perform everyday tasks like brushing your teeth, driving or talking on the phone. When you notice your shoulders start creeping up toward your ears, consciously relax and mentally release tension from this area.
In addition to postural awareness, engaging in specific posture exercises and stretches may help ease tension in your shoulders and encourage a more relaxed shoulder posture. According to physical therapist Chad Elms, shoulder blade squeezes are one of the easiest exercises you can perform to help loosen and strengthen your shoulders. This exercise involves squeezing your shoulder blades together for 10 seconds at a time, several times a day. Other forms of exercise, such as yoga, Pilates and the Alexander technique, can help retrain all of the muscles that support proper posture.
Simple postural stretches can help relax your shoulders and promote improved posture. You can perform an easy stretch any time you notice increased shoulder tension. Reach your arms straight up over your head and interlace your fingers with your palms facing toward the ceiling. Press your shoulders away from your ears and reach your palms up, as though you are trying to touch the ceiling. Perform this stretch several times a day to stretch your back and your entire spine.
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: What to Avoid While Sitting
- Hand Clinics: Conservative Treatment for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
- Spine-Health: Ten Tips for Improving Posture
- The Physio Detective: For Good Posture, Do Not Pull Shoulders Back
- The Back University: Quick Posture Exercises for Improving Your Posture
- Netdoctor: Posture
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.