Should You Really Be Pulling Your Shoulder’s Back?
One of the most common pieces of feedback given by almost everyone in the physical therapy/yoga/fitness industry is: “Pull your shoulder’s back and down.” It certainly seems reasonable. We see so many people with rounded shoulders, why wouldn’t you bring your shoulders back?
While almost everyone has rounded shoulders, many (I’d guess a little over half) have flat thoracic spines (upper backs). The thoracic spine should curve slightly into something called a kyphosis. Some people have an increased kyphosis that creates a hunchback appearance, but everyone should ideally have a slight kyphosis curve. So when this curve flattens, the upper thoracic spine curves further forwards to compensate for the flattened curve. This response causes the shoulders to move forwards.
Push Your Shoulders Down
This flattened back usually stems from a weak (or at least functionally weak) serratus anterior, and overactive thoracic extensor spinae. If you have large muscles running down the sides of your back then these muscles may be overactive. When you bring your shoulders back, the serratus anterior disengages. Also, for many, the thoracic extensor spinae activates. Instead, try pushing your shoulders down: just down. This corrects most forward shoulder postures for most people.
A Thoracic Curve
Some of you will need to bring your shoulders back too. Many of you though, will actually need to push your thoracic spine back. Do this by keeping your shoulders stable (after pulling them down). Next, keeping your shoulders still, push your thoracic spine back. Standing against a wall can help facilitate this movement, as can the thoracic pro. Hold this position for about thirty seconds, then relax. Try again a day or two. These muscle fatigue quickly, and you can’t feel them getting sore. So build up slowly over time.
Your Local Physical Therapist
Really, everyone needs a physical therapist to assess their postural technique. Everyone has their own unique way of compensating for muscular weaknesses and imbalances. These exercises provide a great starting point. For a more whole body description on how to adjust your posture and anti-gravity muscle, click here.